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Changes made to Saudi Arabia 's female driving ban

Published:Saturday | November 8, 2014 | 3:49 PM
In this Friday, June 17, 2011 file image made from video released by Change.org, a website used by activust groups, a Saudi Arabian woman drives a car as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. - AP file

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP):

It's only for women over 30, who must be off the road by 8 p.m. and cannot wear makeup behind the wheel.




But it's still a startling shift.



The Saudi king's advisory council has recommended that the government lift its ban on female drivers, a member of the council told The Associated Press yesterday.



The Shura Council's recommendations are not obligatory on the government, but simply making the recommendation was a major step after years of the kingdom staunchly rejecting any review of the ban.



There have been small but increasingly bold protests by women who took to their cars over the past year.



The driving ban, which is unique in the world, is imposed because the kingdom's ultraconservative Muslim clerics say "licentiousness" will spread if women drive.



The council member said the Shura Council made the recommendations in a secret, closed session held in the past month. The member spoke on condition of anonymity because the recommendations had not been made public.



Under the recommendations, only women over 30 would be allowed to drive and they would need permission from a male relative — usually a husband or father, but lacking those, a brother or son.



They would be allowed to drive from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday through Wednesday and noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. It wasn't immediately clear why the restrictions would be different Thursday and Friday, as the Saudi weekend was changed by royal decree in 2013 to Friday and Saturday.



The conditions also require that a woman driver wear conservative dress and no make-up, the official said.



Within cities, they can drive without a male relative in the car, but outside of cities, a male is required to be present.



The council said a "female traffic department" would have to be created to deal with female drivers if their cars broke down or they encountered other problems, and to issue fines. It recommended the female traffic officers be under the supervision of the "religious agencies."



The council placed heavy restrictions on interactions between female drivers and male traffic officers or other male drivers, and stiff penalties for those who broke them. Merely speaking to a female driver, it said, was punishable by a one-month prison sentence and a fine.



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