Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saudia Arabia: Women Only Buses

From the Gulf Times:
A report has found that some 35% of Saudi women’s monthly income is spent on drivers and taxis as they are forbidden from driving and are largely excluded from the public transport system.

The survey, conducted by the Saudi Centre for Studies and Media (SCSM), is recommending the establishment of women-only buses in the kingdom and is currently being studied by Saudi Arabia’s legislative branch, the Majlis A-Shoura (Consultative Council).

The line of women-only buses, called Hafilati (“My Bus”), will employ male drivers.

“This is the first programme of its kind in Saudi Arabia to transport female passengers for a price that is fair and equal to that of men,” Jamal Banoun, director of the SCSM told The Media Line. “The primary aim of this is to provide protection for women against moral problems and sexual harassment that they sometimes face from taxi drivers.”

In recent years the kingdom has been undergoing gradual reforms and women are becoming a more significant part of the work force. “The need for transportation for women in Saudi Arabia hasn’t been given the same attention that it’s been given for men,” the report read. “Men have options such as driving a car and other modes of transport that facilitate their movement whenever they want. But the Saudi woman is limited in her options in using transportation.”

Saudi Arabia is not the first Middle Eastern country to consider creating a segregated transportation system and the idea is not always welcomed by rights activists. In Cairo’s subway system, the fourth and fifth carriages are reserved exclusively for women. Also, women-only taxis, which are both driven by women and serve women, are either operating, or being discussed, in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Dubai and Jordan. Women-for-women taxis are currently not an option in Saudi Arabia where women cannot take the wheel.

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