On Tuesday, a Saudi court sentenced a woman to 10 lashes with a whip for driving a car. According to the Los Angeles Times, there is no formal law in place in Saudi Arabia that bans women from driving. However, there is a law that requires citizens to carry locally issued licenses. These licenses are not issued to women, effectively making it illegal for them to drive. Women are also prohibited from driving by a religious edict issued by Muslim clerics.
This is the first time that formal legal punishment has been issued to violators of the law. It is only recently that several women have been summoned to stand trial for driving. Two other women are also facing charges related to driving.
The ruling comes two days after Saudi King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections. Phillip Luther, a regional deputy director for Amnesty International, maintains that while the new voting provisions for Saudi women are monumental, they do not compensate for the persistent infringements on human rights in Saudi Arabia. Luther stated, “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.”