Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shoura Council Women: "It took us two months to prepare study"

This article from the October 24, 2013 Saudi Gazette, is another reprint of an opinion piece by Shitwi Al-Ghaighi from Okaz (an Arabic daily in Saudi Arabia). A link to the story is here, and the story is pasted below. It's a kind of post-mortem on what happened in the Shoura Council when its new members tried to get a discussion of women driving going in the Council.

Shitwi Al-Ghaithi
DR. Latifah Al-Shalan, Dr. Haya Al-Manee, and Dr. Mona Al-Mushait, members of the Shoura Council put forth a recommendation on allowing women to drive. This move signifies the fact that this issue is no longer limited to social outcries here and there.

In an interview with a Saudi news agency, Dr. Al-Shalan said, “It took us two months to prepare the study which helped us come up with the recommendations on different issues which are usually supported with brief studies.”

Al-Shalan said, “We based our recommendation on the basic system of governance and the traffic regulations in addition to fatwas by senior scholars who have banned women from khulwa (when a woman is in company with an unrelated member of the opposite sex). We also relied on studies and reports about child and women harassment as well as expatriate labor problems. We based our recommendation on several human rights agreements in which the Kingdom is a signatory.”

Dr. Al-Shalan tweeted that she relied on religious, social, legal, and economic grounds. During her interview, she explained how a recommendation is put forth and discussed by the Shoura Council. “The recommendation will go through the same procedures other recommendations go through. If it is accepted by the council, it gets referred to the transportation committee. Any committee within has two options when discussing a recommendation:
either to accept it and vote on it or reject. In the latter case, it would be sent back to the members who put it forth in order to withdraw it. If the members withdraw it, the case is closed. If they insist on it, the council would have to discuss it in a session to make a final decision.”

It seems that the council members are divided over the issue as its spokesman Dr. Muhammad Al-Muhana indicated when he said the council had not adopted the recommendation on women driving nor had it referred to the transport committee, although some newspapers filed opposite reports. The spokesman refuted the reports saying the council’s session held recently did not touch upon this issue but it discussed the report of transport, telecommunications, and information technology.

Some newspapers reported that “one of the members raised the issue of allowing women to drive but the chairman of the council Dr. Abdullah Al-Sheikh brought her attention that the session was not discussing this issue and that her remarks were off topic.” There are two statements: the first by Dr. Al-Shalan in which she said the recommendation was put forth to the council and was prepared by three female members over two months. The second, by Dr. Al-Muhana who said the female members only made some comments that were off topic. These two contradictory statements are all we know. Evidently, the council reconsidered the issue after media focused on it. The issue could have been voted yes or no without such contradiction in statements.

The council should not have been hesitant in dealing with an issue that can simply be finalized. However, it seems that something is going on inside the council that the public is not aware of. Could it be that the social differences on the issue affected the council’s decision? I hope social debate does not affect the council’s discussion of the issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment