The Defiant Women of Saudi Arabia

If a government was recognised as de facto government it implied that the government had effective control, the control appeared to be permanent and there was every likelihood that the regime would be a permanent one. This seems evident in Saudi Arabia’s de facto ban on women’s driving as women are viewed as inferior. Saudi women need permission from male counterparts to do a lot of things such as travelling and getting married inter alia.

Saudi Arabia is known around the world as the only country where women are not allowed to drive. Saudi women can own cars but not drive them. She must rely on her male relatives (husband, son etc) or a professional driver to drive her about. The Grand Mufti, who is the country’s most senior religious authority declared a Fatwa or religious edict against women driving stating that driving would expose women to “temptation”, undermine social values and lead to “social chaos”.

The Minister of Interior, Prince Nayed,banned women’s driving by decree on the basis of the Fatwa. The Sharia however, which is the Islamic Law has no formal (written) text forbidding women to drive. This ban is an informal prohibition which many women in Saudi Arabia have protested against. According to an article on the Human Rights Watch website, there is a campaign called ‘Women2Drive’ which aims to end the prohibition on driving by encouraging women to take the wheel. Some Saudi women in civil disobedience have defied this ban and posted videos of themselves driving online in particular on YouTube.

According to a Reuters article in The Guardian, women cannot apply for driving licences as the ban is in accordance with the wishes of society in the conservative Kingdom. In an interview published on Reuters and CNN with Sheikh Salah bin Saad al-Lohaidan, an advisor to a group of psychologists on; he was quoted as saying that:

If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards… That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees”.

However, in a report by The Huffington Post, Saudi gynecologist [sic] Mohammad Backnah said that scientific studies have not proven that driving has adverse effects on women’s reproductive health.

The ban remains in effect as Saudi women and human rights activists are fighting for the rights, freedom and equality among women and men.

© Candacia Thomas 2013


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