Friday, October 28, 2016

Saudi Woman Arrested for Driving as Parliament Prepares to Deliberate Removing Ban

According to this article in Breitbart, the Saudi Shura Council is about to take up a discussion of the issue of women driving.A link to the story is here,  and the text is below. This discussion will be on the heels of another arrest of a woman driving in Mecca. The story is by Ali Wakid, dated October 24, 2016.

A young Saudi woman was arrested after police were notified she was driving a car in Mecca.

The woman, together with two male passengers, was handed over to the vice squad after intoxicating substances were found in the car.
The three will be indicted for illegal driving and gender mixing.
Meanwhile, the Shura Council, Saudi Arabia’s parliament, will convene next week to discuss a bill to “foster an environment conducive to legalize female driving.”
Sultan al Sultan MP has asked the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and the Interior Ministry to carry out a study into the matter. Speaking to Al Hayat newspaper, he said that his proposal was meant to alleviate difficulties of transportation that families incur given the fact that women are not allowed to drive.
In addition, he said, the cost of hiring a chauffeur often deters women from entering the labor market.
“That’s why female driving has become a social issue that requires review in light of the social and security situation, on top of the behavioral consequences that children face by virtue of having a stranger around all the time,” he said, providing an economic motive to boot: “More than a million foreigners work here as chauffeurs, sending their countries more than 1 billion riyal [$250 million] monthly. We would be better off if this sum was invested in developing our country.”
“We need to provide for a social environment, especially when it comes to young drivers, and to provide for an acceptable driving culture,” he added.
Also on Sunday, the head of the Saudi Chamber of Commerce in the kingdom’s south-east said that women “make up 50 per cent of university graduates but only 22 per cent of the workforce.”
He said he hoped that Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 plan would help reduce that disparity.

How safe are Saudi women in taxis driven by Saudis?

This opinion piece appeared in the October 28, 2016 Saudi Gazette. Uber and other car service apps have revolutionized the mobility of Saudi women. Now the government is proposing that all drivers must be Saudis. I am not certain whether official yellow taxis must be Saudi, or if this law includes the 'apps' as well. As a note, back in the 1970's, there was a period of time when all taxi drivers had to be Saudi nationals. This was done to immediately give employment to able bodied men who might not have the education or other skills to find employment. It seems this idea has come full circle. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted below.

by - Samar al-Migrin
THE issue of smartphone apps for taxis is a controversial topic everywhere. When they were launched, many taxi drivers lost their jobs and customers. Taxis booked via an app are usually cleaner than traditional taxis found in the street and offer better services at reasonable rates, especially inside cities where conventional taxis are expensive.
When I visited New York last year, I saw dozens of yellow cab drivers protesting about these apps. They were angry because their business had been negatively impacted and they were no longer able to compete.
Although I felt sad for them, the truth is that the taxis that are booked via smartphone apps are way better than traditional taxis in terms of quality of service. Moreover, the drivers speak nicely to customers and do their best to make customers happy because they know if they do not, then customers will give them a negative review.
In the Kingdom, these apps play an important role in helping Saudi families travel, especially in light of the ban imposed on women driving. In other countries, people use taxis for certain errands. Saudi women are happier and no longer feel worried about riding alone with a taxi driver. In fact, these apps are a solution to the transportation problem that women used to face.
The Ministry of Transport recently issued a decision to Saudize taxis and replace expatriate taxi drivers with Saudis. I was glad when I read the news and thought that Saudi taxi drivers should be given an opportunity to prove themselves. But a few days after the decision, I started to carefully think about this matter.
The decision will result in Saudi women being alone with a Saudi taxi driver in the same car. I think there is a contradiction between this decision and the ban imposed on women driving in the Kingdom.
Saudi women are banned from driving because of Saudi drivers, most of whom are young and reckless. If young Saudi men are dangerous and they are the reason why women cannot drive, then what is the justification for the decision to allow young Saudi women to get in a car with young Saudi men?
I would like to reiterate that I am not against Saudization, but we need to look at this issue more carefully.