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Mon 9 Apr 2012 05:58 PM

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Saudi princess seeks more rights for women

Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz says constitution, not driving, is big priority

Saudi princess seeks more rights for women
Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz, niece of King Abdullah.

The daughter of Saudi Arabia's former king has called on rulers to implement a new constitution giving men and women equal rights in kingdom.

Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz, in an interview with the BBC's World Service, said she was "saddened to say that my beloved country today has not fulfilled that early promise".

She lists five key changes she would like to see - to the constitution, divorce laws, education system, social services and the roll of the mahram (chaperone).

"This one seems to concern western observers the most but there are more essential rights we need to obtain first. I am definitely for women driving but I don't think this is the right time for a reversal of this law," she told the BBC.

"In the current climate if a woman drives, she could be stopped, harassed beaten or worse to teach her a lesson. This is why I am against women driving until we are educated enough and until we have the necessary laws to protect us from such madness," she added.

Princess Basma, who lives in London and is the niece of the current ruler King Abdullah, said: "Our ancient culture, of which I am very proud, is renowned for its nobility and generosity, but we lack, and urgently need, fundamental civil laws with which to govern our society."

On the constitution, she said: "I would like to see a proper constitution that treats all men and women on an equal footing before the law but that also serves as a guide to our civil laws and political culture.

"In particular, the constitution should protect every citizen's basic human rights regardless of their sex, status or sect. Everyone should be equal before the law."

She said she believed that current divorce laws were "abusive", with women finding it almost impossible to file.

"This state of affairs is in complete contradiction to the Koran, upon which our laws are supposed to be based. In it a woman is given full rights to divorce simply in the case of 2irreconcilable differences'."

On education, the princess said the content of the syllabus was "extremely dangerous" as young people are taught that a woman's position in society is inferior.

"This is a result of a complete misinterpretation of the Koran. I consider these ideologies to be inherently abusive," she told the BBC.

"Instead of wasting our youths' intellect on memorising quotations whose origins is uncertain (such as those found in hadith, Fiqh and tafssir) we need to encourage them to think freely, innovate and use their initiative for the betterment of our society," she added.

She also called for a complete reform of social services, with more support available for abused women.

"We need independent women's refuges where the rights of women are upheld and backed up by powerful laws that can override family traditions and protect women," she said.

On the role of the Mahram (chaperone), she said the practice was outdated and its only purpose was to "curtail women's freedom of movement".

"On the whole it is the rights and freedoms of all citizens that are crucial in Saudi Arabia and from those the rights of women will emanate," she added.

Arabian Business Editor 7 years ago

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