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Saudi Arabia will now let women ride motorbikes, bicycles for 'recreational use' only

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Saudi Arabia, among the most wealthy and ultra-conservative of all Middle Eastern nations, is letting women ride bicycles and motorcycles for the first time ever. This comes with strict stipulations, however, as Saudi Arabia still forbids its women to drive cars, the only nation on earth to do so.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the new edict, Saudi Arabian women can now ride bikes, motorbikes only in designated parks and recreational areas. They must also be accompanied by a male relative and dressed in full Islamic head-to-toe abaya.

An unnamed official from the powerful religious police told reporters that women may not use the bikes for transportation but "only for entertainment." He also said they should shun places where young men gather "to avoid harassment."

Saudi Arabia follows an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam and bans women from driving. It must be stressed that women are still banned from riding motorcycles or bicycles in public places.

It's not yet known what triggered the lifting of the ban.

Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area, the birthplace of Islam and the kingdom is sometimes called "the Land of the Two Holy Mosques."

Saudi Arabia also has the world's second largest oil reserves and oil accounts for more than 95 percent of exports and an incredible 70 per cent of government revenue.

The Arabian Peninsula is the ancestral home of patriarchal, nomadic tribes, in which purdah, the separation of women and men and namus, or honor is considered central.

All women, regardless of age, are required to have a male guardian. Women cannot vote or be elected to high political positions. However, King Abdullah has declared that women will be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections, and be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.

The World Economic Forum 2009 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity. It was the only country to score a zero in the category of political empowerment. The report also noted that Saudi Arabia is one of the few Middle Eastern countries to improve from 2008, with small gains in economic opportunity.

Twenty-one percent of Saudi women are in the workforce and make up 16.5 percent of the overall workforce.

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