Female senators to Saudi Arabia: Let women drive

A Saudi woman and her children get into a taxi in Riyadh on June 14, 2011, three days before a nationwide campaign by Saudi women to take the wheel in protest against a driving ban which is unique to the kingdom. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi woman gets into a taxi with her children
A Saudi woman and her children get into a taxi in Riyadh on June 14, 2011, three days before a nationwide campaign by Saudi women to take the wheel in protest against a driving ban.
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Fourteen female senators, Democrat and Republican, sent a letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Tuesday urging him to end the country's ban on women driving.

Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the world that prohibits women from driving. A group of Saudi women defied the ban last month in protest of the rule.

The senators said in the letter that they support those in Saudi Arabia calling for an end to the ban. "Maintaining such a restriction stands in stark contrast with the commitments your government has made to promote the rights of Saudi women," they wrote.

In June 2009, the Saudi government agreed to the majority of the recommendations put forward by a United Nations human rights working group, including to "abolish all legislation, measures and practices that discriminate against women." The recommendations specifically mentioned driving. Additionally, Saudi Arabia was recently elected as a member of the board of UN Women, which is dedicated to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The nation has taken some steps to better integrate women into society, such as appointing the first female deputy minister. The senators said, however, that "more must be done and lifting the driving ban would be a critical step forward."

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced her support the women who defied the driving ban, but she stressed that the demonstrations were not spurred by any U.S. involvement.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., spearheaded Tuesday's effort.

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