UPDATE: King Abdullah has stepped in to overturn a court verdict that sentenced a Saudi woman to 10 lashings with a whip for defying the kingdom's ban on female drivers, according to the government.
A Saudi official broke the news in an interview with the Associated Press, but spoke only on the condition of anonymity and declined to elaborate.
Al Jazeera, meanwhile, explains how the ban works: "There is no written law banning women from driving, but there is a law requiring citizens to use locally issued licences while in the country. Such licences are not issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive."
POST Tuesday, Sept. 27: A Saudi woman was sentenced on Tuesday to 10 lashings with a whip for violating the kingdom's longtime ban on female drivers.
The decision was the first time that a legal punishment has been handed down for violating the prohibition, the Associated Press reports, and comes only two days after King Abdullah announced historic voting reforms for women.
There is no written law on the books blocking women from driving; the ban is instead rooted in the Muslim country’s ultraconservative religious views that giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.
The AP with more: "Normally, police just stop female drivers, question them and let them go after they sign a pledge not to drive again. But dozens of women have continued to take to the roads since June in a campaign to break the taboo."
Activists sounded off on the decision, claiming that the sentencing was retaliation from the religious conservatives who control the courts for the recent strides made toward gender equality. They also saw it as Abdullah pandering to the clergy and conservative citizens, even as he pushes for change.
"How come women get flogged for driving while the maximum penalty for a traffic violation is a fine, not lashes?" activist Zein el-Abydeen said. "Even the Prophet (Muhammad’s) wives were riding camels and horses because these were the only means of transportation."