The Fight for the Right to Drive.

While many of us may take driving for granted, in Saudi Arabia women are putting their lives on the line just by getting behind the wheel.  Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving a car.  Furthermore, if women do wish to travel, they must have permission from male relatives and must be accompanied by them when out in public.  There is no specific law that prohibits women from driving but citizens must have locally issued licenses in order to drive.  These licenses are not issued to women, which in turn makes it illegal for women to drive.  Furthermore, a fatwa or religious edict, issued in the 90’s, essentially banned women from driving.  Some of the reasons for the ban as stated by Majlis al-lfta’ al-A’ala, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, are that allowing women to drive would lead to an increase in homosexuality, the use of pornography, prostitution, and divorce.  In addition, the council has stated that allowing women to drive would mean no more virgins.

Women of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia want this de facto ban to be lifted.  They believe there are no valid justifications for the state to ban adult, capable women from driving.  This seems to be especially true when Saudi women are allowed to fly planes.  As a result, since 1991, Saudi women have been protesting the prohibition through various means such as demonstrations, petitions, and online campaigns.  In 1991, a group of 47 women in Ridyadh, the country’s capital city, drove their cars to protest against the driving ban.  They were arrested and imprisoned for one day.  Some of the women had their passports confiscated and others lost their jobs.  In May 2011, Manal al-Sharif, a prominent Saudi women’s rights activist, filmed herself driving and was arrested after uploading the video to YouTube.  Her video had inspired many women across Saudi Arabia to participate in the “Women2Drive” campaign that was held on June 17, 2011.  Those that participated in the campaign, got in their cars and drove through the cities.  There will be another demonstration on October 26, 2013, which urges Saudi women to drive cars to show their support.

As of right now, this campaign, October 26 Driving, has gathered over 11,000 signatures on a petition it published on it’s website, Oct26driving.com.  In addition, there have been signs for changes to come under Saudi Arabia’s current ruler, King Abdullah.  He is considered to be a “cautious reformer and proponent of women’s rights.”  Through the demonstration on October 26, the women of Saudi Arabia hope they will finally gain the right to drive.

Do you agree with the reasons stated by the council for banning women from driving?  Are they valid reasons for the ban?  Is the ban just purely motivated by discrimination against women?  How is it that the women of Saudi Arabia are allowed to become pilots and fly planes but still can’t drive?  How is it that in today’s day and age the women of Saudi Arabia must fight for the right to drive?Does the treatment of Saudi women align with the international communities’ idea of women?

Source: CNN

Source: Oct26Driving

Source: WordPress

Picture: WordPress.com

3 comments

  1. I would safely assume that no rational person would agree with the stated correlation that letting women drive could lead to an increase in homosexuality, the use of pornography, prostitution, and divorce. Saudi Arabia is possibly the most strict, when it comes to religion and the law. However, I find it hard to see how they claimed a religious fatwa for this movement when Islam, the religion of that region, is one that puts women on the highest of pedestals in regards to how they should be treated and the respect they are owed. There are countless verses in the Qur’an that affirm this and evidence the fact that daughters, mothers, wives, and women in general are to be treated with the utmost respect. It is exactly because of this that Saudi Arabia must lift this senseless ban and realize it has no place in Islam, or in that country.

  2. The ban on women driving is absolutely appalling. The reasons for the ban, however, to me, are even worse. The council sites an increase in homosexuality, the use of pornography, prostitution, divorce, and loss of virgins as their main reasons for why women cannot drive. I simply do not see a correlation between women driving and these reasons stated.

    First, homosexuality is not a bad thing. Moreover, loss of virginity is normal development in an adult and a divorce may be the most freeing thing a person can go through. With respect to pornography, it is likely that people view pornography at home. People do not normally drive to view pornography. Lastly, in regards to prostitution, I do not see a nexus between women driving and prostitution. If women want to engage in prostitution, they can do so by walking.

    This is an example of pure discrimination, power, and control. The reasons the council cites are a guise to maintain power and control of the women in Saudi Arabia. The fact that in 2013, women cannot go out in public alone or drive a car, to me, is unthinkable.

  3. I believe that the council’s reasons for the ban constitute an insult to women everywhere. The council’s justification lacks a sound argument and does not make sense. The council concludes that if women drive, there would be an increase to homosexuality, use of pornography, and divorce. I do not see the correlation between driving and these reasons. Men drive, but does that make them more susceptible to being homosexual or more likely to divorce? I do not understand the rationale being used. I do not think that there is a difference between women who fly planes and women who drive cars. One involves aerial transportation and the other deals with travel on land. I feel that the argument against women being allowed to drive is weak. It is sad when in this day and age, a woman needs to engage in protests to be treated equally with men. Having the ability to drive when you please is a sense of freedom, and the women are denied this liberty when they are restricted from being given the opportunity to drive a car.

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