Just days after women in Saudi Arabia gained the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections in 2015, a major advancement for women’s rights in the conservative Muslim kingdom, a Saudi woman has been sentenced to 10 lashes for driving her car.
For the last several months, Saudi women have been protesting the ban on women driving by taking to the wheel in increasing numbers, with activist Manal al-Sharif even filming herself driving. Sharif was arrested and then released from jail after pledging to take no further part in campaigning for Saudi women to drive.
But while several women have been detained, a sentencing of 10 lashes is the first of its kind and may be the harshest punishment exacted on a female driver yet.
Mona Eltahawy, a commentator on Arab and Muslim issues, responded to the news by tweeting: “Sunday: Saudi king gives women right to vote. Tuesday: Saudi judge sentences woman to be lashed for driving. Who’s unready for women's rights?”
Outspoken Saudi designer Lou Kofiah responded just as sarcastically to the news. “A tradition from the past (a non-existent law), that's allowed to lash her present, and ruin her future,” he wrote Tuesday.
While no laws prohibit women from driving, conservative religious edicts have banned it in Saudi Arabia.