Authorities in Saudi Arabia are in the midst of a new crackdown on female drivers after several women in the conservative Gulf kingdom were caught behind the wheel.
Traffic officials in the Eastern Province city of Al-Qatif said that any females caught driving would be dealt with firmly on the back of three arrests in recent months, Saudi Gazette reported. Sunni Muslim Saudi prohibits women from driving, instead making them rely on private drivers or male guardians.
A spokesman told the newspaper that any woman caught driving would be fined SR900 ($240) and made to sign a legal document that assures authorities they will not do it again.
One case in recent months was that of an unidentified 47-year old woman, traffic cops said, who had filmed herself driving while accompanied by her father and brother. The video, in which she talked about why women should be given the right to drive, was then posted on YouTube.
Another involved a Turkish woman who was arrested despite holding an international driver’s licence, which Saudi authorities say they do not recognise.
In 2012, more than 600 women petitioned Saudi’s King Abdullah to allow women to drive in the country, a year after a group of women’s-rights activists launched the Women2Drive campaign.
Prominent figures such as Princess Ameerah Al Taweel have also spoken in support of women lobbying to overturn the driving ban.
Women’s rights in the Gulf’s most populous country, which practises an austere version of Sharia Law, are a frequent topic of discussion in the world’s media.
Females in Saudi Arabia are prohibited from taking up employment or leaving the country without a male guardian’s permission.
In recent years though there have been indications that absolute monarch King Abdullah has pursued a reformist agenda in terms of women’s rights.
In 2011, it was announced that women would be permitted to vote and stand in municipal elections from 2015, while in January 2013 30 women were appointed to the country’s legislative Shoura Council.
Some female members of the Shoura Council have said they will lobby for the driving ban to be lifted, although there is not yet a timeframe for when the issue will be discussed.
It was also recently announced that women would be allowed to practice law in a professional environment for the first time.