The sentencing of a Saudi Arabian woman to 10 lashes after she drove a car demonstrates the scale of discrimination against women in the kingdom, Amnesty International said Sept. 27. “Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it beggars belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Philip Luther, noting the irony that the sentence was handed down days after the Saudi monarchy had announced that women would be granted the vote in municipal council elections.
“Belatedly allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement then the King’s much-trumpeted ‘reforms’ actually amount to very little,” said Luther. “Saudi Arabia needs to go much further. The whole system of women’s subordination to men in Saudi Arabia needs to be dismantled.” (AI, Sept. 27)
Saudi Arabia’s rulers allow elections for only half of the seats on municipal councils, which have few powers, and women will not be afforded the vote and stand in the polls until 2015. Nalia Attar, who organized a campaign for women to be allowed to participate in the elections, said the move marks the beginning of progress. “Despite the issue of the effectiveness of these councils, women’s involvement in them was necessary” she said. “Maybe after women join there will be other changes.” (Mancunion, Sept. 28)