Saudi Arabia: Women's New Right To Vote Marred by Ban on Driving
Thursday, September 29, 2011 10:45 AM

On Sunday, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote in municipal elections, but only days later, Shaima Jastaina was found guilty of violating the ban on women driving and sentenced to receive 10 lashes. This was the first trial and verdict against a woman for driving in the country since the recent campaign for driving rights began in June. The outcry against the punishment was so fierce that King Abdullah eventually overturned the sentence. 

Many are celebrating the King’s intervention in the case, claiming that it shows that his promises to allow women to vote in the 2015 election, run for municipal office, and be appointed to the Shura Council are not empty. Others worry that the ability of women to exercise these new rights will be hindered by stalling arising from the royal court as well as the conservative traditions deeply rooted in the country. Some Saudi women openly questioned the legitimacy of being granted the right to run for office when women were not allowed to drive during their campaigns.


Compiled from: MacFarquhar, Neil, Saudi Monarch Grants Women Right To Vote, The New York Times (25 September 2011); Saudi King Overturns Verdict against Woman Driver, The New York Times (28 September 2011); Saudi Woman Has Her Sentence Quashed by King Abdullah, BBC (29 September 2011).