Saudi women get right to drive bikes

by Lisa Anderson | | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 2 April 2013 17:29 GMT

Guests look on behind a bicycle on the red carpet during the premiere screening of "Wadjda" during the 69th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2012. The movie is about an 11-year-old girl who dreams of owning a bicycle. REUTERS/Max Rossi

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In latest slight loosening of restrictions on Saudi women, they may now ride bicycles and motorbikes -- if accompanied by a male guardian and wearing a top to toe cloak, the abaya.

By Lisa Anderson

NEW YORK (TrustLaw) — It isn’t exactly like being given the keys to the family car, but Saudi women will for the first time be allowed to “drive” themselves on bicycles and motorbikes, according to a report in a Saudi newspaper.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, an unnamed official in the religious police was quoted in Monday’s Al-Yawm daily newspaper as saying the kingdom had lifted the ban on women riding motorbikes and bicycles -- albeit with substantial restrictions.

Women may ride bikes only in parks and other recreational areas and may use them only for entertainment, not for transportation purposes.  They must also manage to do this while wearing the full, head-to-toe cloaks called abayas and be accompanied by male guardians.

The religious police official also warned women to avoid riding bikes in areas where young men gather in order “to avoid harassment.”

Women are still banned from driving cars, but being allowed to “drive” on two wheels was the second small victory for Saudi women in a week, after the Interior Ministry decided to license women’s sports clubs for the first time.

The latest slight loosening of restrictions on Saudi women are part of changes ordered by King Abdullah. In January, the king appointed 30 women to the nation’s Shura Council and decreed that women would make up 20 percent of the consultative body.

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