Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Update: King Abdullah Overturns Judicial Ruling that Woman Driver Be Subjected to 10 Lashes

Saudi King Abdullah thankfully has overturned a court ruling sentencing a Saudi woman, Shaima Jastaina, to be lashed 10 times for defying the Kingdom's ban on female drivers. On Tuesday (September 27), a Saudi court found Jastaina guilty of violating the driving ban, and sentenced her to 10 lashes. The verdict took Saudi women by surprise, coming just a day after King Abdullah promised to protect women's rights and decreed that women would be allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015. Abdullah also promised to appoint women to a currently all-male advisory body known as the Shura Council.

COMMENT: The harsh sentence marked the first time a legal punishment had been handed down since female activists began their campaign in June to break the taboo.

There are no written laws that restrict women from driving. Rather, the ban is simply rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold that giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sin.

King Abdullah's counter-action against ultra-conservative clerics shows incredible strength on his part and is an indicator that harsh punishment for women who drive may no longer be tolerated. Then again, time will tell.

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