'End of virginity' if women drive, Saudi cleric warns

Saudi women get in the back seat of a car Saudi Arabia remains one of the few countries in the world to prevent women from driving

A report in Saudi Arabia has warned that if Saudi women were given the right to drive, it would spell the end of virginity in the country.

The report was prepared for Saudi Arabia's legislative assembly, the Shura Council, by a well-known conservative academic.

Though there is no formal ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, if they get behind the wheel, they can be arrested.

Saudi women have mounted several campaigns to try to overturn the ban.

Aside from the practical difficulties it creates, they say it is also illogical as in trying to keep them under family control and away from men, it actually puts them in daily contact with a male driver.

The issue has received huge international attention.

Some Saudi women feel it has attracted too much interest, obscuring other equally important issues.

As part of his careful reform process, King Abdullah has allowed suggestions to surface that the ban might be reviewed.

This has angered the conservative religious elite - a key power base for any Saudi ruler.

Now, one of their number - well-known academic Kamal Subhi - has presented a new report to the country's legislative assembly, the Shura.

The aim was to get it to drop plans to reconsider the ban.

The report contains graphic warnings that letting women drive would increase prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.

A Saudi woman who has campaigned for women drivers told the BBC that the report was completely mad.

She said the head of the Shura had assured women campaigners that he was still open to hearing the case for lifting the ban.

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