RIYADH – The Shoura Council Sunday dropped a controversial recommendation from its draft law which allowed women to keep their faces covered in front of men who were responsible for verifying their identity.
The Shoura accepted the suggestion that women could be employed to verify the identities of women.
Fingerprints can be added but not replace face identification, the Shoura said.
The first recommendation called for amending Article 67 of the Civil Status Law to read as follows: “Any Saudi citizen who attains the age of 15 shall apply for a personal identification card. Citizens between 10-15 years of age shall have the option to apply for the card if their guardians’ consent has been obtained.”
The second recommendation required Saudi women to obtain national identification cards as per a gradual seven-year plan, making the acquired ID the only means of identity verification.
Currently, the family card and passports are used by some for identification purposes. (A family card is issued to a male guardian with his photograph only in addition to the names of his dependents).
The Minister of Interior is responsible for implementing this plan which will focus at the outset on female college applicants, job applicants, social insurance applicants, and any women who wish to apply for a passport.
Aisha Natto, a member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said photos and fingerprints to identify Saudi women are equally important.
She does not see any problem with men verifying the identity of women by looking at their picture.
She said women cannot travel abroad without using their passport, which contains their picture.
If that is possible then there is no reason why their pictures should be included in their ID cards, she said.
She added: “I am for both a fingerprinting system and putting pictures on the cards because both are equally important. As for fingerprinting, it is difficult to bypass it unlike a picture, which can be easily substituted.”
Muna Muhammad Al-Thaqafi, a Saudi woman in her 50s, said she did not mind a man checking her photo ID and uncovering her face because that would solve many security issues. She said some people were impersonating others.
She added: “I once did it at a government department when women were not available to check my identity. I uncovered my face to the government employee who was the age of my son.”
Ali Al-Johani, a Saudi in his late 40s, said he strongly supported the fingerprinting system because it avoids much embarrassment and was not easy to bypass.
He added: “Saudi society is religious and some people find it difficult letting a women uncover her face. I am not against women uncovering their faces for ID checks but the problem is that men and women fear each other in our society. A fingerprinting system may be the safe solution to this problem.”