NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police in Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving cars, recently caught and punished three women found illegally behind the wheel, according to a report in the Saudi Gazette.
The women, all caught on the outskirts of the city of Al-Qatif in Eastern Province, were subject to fines of 900 Saudi riyals ($240), and required to sign a document promising they would not do it again.
The three recent cases, which are among the six registered against women drivers in the last five years, involved a variety of women.
One was a 47-year-old woman accompanied by her father and brother, who videotaped her driving and posted the video on YouTube.
Another case involved a girl whose brother was riding in the car with her. The third involved a Turkish woman whose valid international driving license is not recognised and does not allow women to drive in the kingdom, according to police.
In a country where King Abdullah is slowly, if steadily, increasing women’s rights - such as the right to vote, work in lingerie shops, practice law and ride bicycles - the right to drive remains a contentious point.
Last year, more than 600 women petitioned the king to allow women to drive. The cause also has been taken up by such leading figures as Princess Ameerah Al Taweel and is being considered by the new female members of the shura council, according to Arabian Business.com.
“I feel unsafe driving here because no one follows traffic rules. It makes me worried when I’m riding with my driver,” said Zahra Ali, who drove herself regularly while she studied in Europe. “To make matters worse, it is difficult to find a driver these days and if you find one, he asks for a lot of money while not sticking to work times.”
It is estimated that the kingdom employs tens of thousands of foreign male drivers to ferry female Saudi citizens from one place to another, a cost some Saudi women find difficult to afford.
Under Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, women are not permitted to travel outside the home without a male guardian and must get permission from male relatives to work, travel or even undertake medical procedures.