Saudi prince calls for ban on women drivers to be lifted


Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has said it is time for Saudi women to get behind the wheel, calling a ban on female drivers in the kingdom an infringement of women's rights.

Saudi Arabia is the only country to bar women from driving and requires them to have a male "guardian" who can stop them traveling, marrying, working or having some medical procedures.

"Preventing a woman from driving a car is today an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving an education or having an independent identity," said the business magnate in a statement.

"They are all unjust acts by a traditional society, far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion," Prince Alwaleed said.

The prince, who is chairman of Kingdom Holdings and has holdings in a number of international companies, including Twitter and Citigroup, said the driving ban was not just a rights issue, but also an economic one.

In a country where more than 1.5 million women need a safe means of transport to get to work every day, allowing them to drive would reduce costs like hiring taxis or foreign drivers, which some see as a violation of Sharia, he said.

"public transport is not, in any event at present, a completely practical means for them, for even Saudi men don't all in all utilization it," said Prince Alwaleed, who is a nephew of Saudi Arabia's King Salman. 

"The best possible arrangement is to permit them to drive." 

To "take into account a component of control", certain limitations for female drivers ought to be set up, for example, obliging them to convey cell phones in the event of a crisis and banning them from driving outside city constrains, the ruler said.