Women drivers 'could be forced to remove veils'
Manama, February 4, 2014
Muslim women could be forced to remove their face veils during routine stops by traffic police in Bahrain.
It comes after the Shura Council approved a series of amendments to a controversial new traffic law, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The 64-article bill includes a quadrupling of some punishments for motoring offences, as part of government attempts to get tough on people who drive dangerously.
General Directorate of Traffic legal affairs chief Lieutenant Colonel Khalid Buqais said the decision to give police the powers to make women remove their veils would be impossible in practice.
"We have a shortage of traffic policewomen in general and we don't have policewomen on night shifts," he said.
"On the other hand, even if we send policewomen to the scene where a female driver wearing a veil is stopped for a violation or an accident, then it could take two to three hours, so that would lead to huge traffic jams.
"We asked for advice from the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry, but we didn't receive a response."
Council members last week threw out a controversial article in the new law granting police the right to decide which expatriates to get driving licences, according to their profession and other criteria.
However, in a tight vote during yesterday's weekly session council members agreed to make driving instructors responsible for violations or accidents caused by learner drivers, unless they can prove they disobeyed their instructions.
Interior Ministry Assistant Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs Brigadier Mohammed Buhamood said it would be "illogical" to prosecute learner drivers.
"The safety of pedestrians, other vehicles and the trainee is the responsibility of the instructor as they are the ones owning the car, with an instructor's licence and are in control of the vehicle," he said.
"When someone is training they are liable to make mistakes and it is the job of the instructor to avoid it."
A vote on whether to allow the opening of private driving learning schools was postponed until next week.
But the council did vote in favour of an article to suspend the driving licences of buses and public transport drivers if they are convicted of non-traffic related crimes, despite police objections that it would mean people being punished twice.
Members also backed moves to allow the confiscation of vehicles with offensive stickers on them until a court verdict is issued.
The controversial punishments chapter will be debated at next Monday's session before a final vote is taken on the entirety of the bill.
The new draft traffic law has been pending for six years and will replace existing legislation dating back 35 years.
Some of the proposed punishments include jail terms of up to six months and fines of up to BD500 ($1,309), or both, for deliberately jumping a red light.
If such an offence causes death, injury or damage to public or private property then the punishment goes up to between three months and 12 months and a fine of between BD1,000 and BD3,000, or both. - TradeArabia News Service