The debate over women driving in Saudi Arabia is about to be reopened – this time by members of the kingdom's Shura Council.
Two council members – both women themselves – have proposed an amendment to the traffic laws to recognize women's right to drive in the kingdom.
"I hope that our proposal to amend the Traffic Law will be voted on in the next Shura Council meeting. Giving women the right to drive will increase their productivity," Shura member Haya Al-Minai said, according to the Saudi Gazette .
Under the current law, there is no official prohibition on women driving in Saudi Arabia; however, officials do not issue driver's licenses to women. The proposed change would amend Article 36 of the Traffic Law to establish that driving is an equal right for women and men.
With the recent success of female candidates in municipal elections, which also marked the first time women were allowed to vote in the kingdom, Minai is optimistic that the timing is right.
"Women occupying leading positions is no longer considered a cultural taboo. Women’s right to drive was proposed three years ago but the Shura Council voted against it. However, I expect a different result this time around," she said.
Minai's proposal is also backed by fellow Shura member Latifa Al-Shaalan.
In February, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir defended the kingdom's often-criticized treatment of women saying, "When it comes to issues like women’s driving, this is not a religious issue, it’s a societal issue," according to Arab News .
"We went from no schools for women in 1960 to universal education, to where today 55 percent of college students are women."
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who also serves as second deputy premier and defense minister, has also been vocal in his support of the kingdom's reforms regarding women.
"A total of 20 women won municipal council elections this time. More and more women are working in various sectors and industries. A Saudi woman is now able to have any job she wishes in any sector and field of work. We do not have any obstacles."
In recent years, female Saudi activists have staged protests, encouraging women to get behind the wheel and drive in defiance of the kingdom's de facto ban. In December 2014, leading activists were arrested and imprisoned when attempting to drive into the kingdom. They were released after two and a half months.
However, if the sentiments of the Saudi Shura Council members and other leaders are correct, women in the kingdom may be able to get behind the wheel sooner than many previously thought.