Saudi Women and Right To Drive

This past weekend, some Saudi women made headlines for doing something most everyone take for granted: driving.

These few dozen women took it upon themselves to disregard the ban on driving imposed on them by their society. A campaign to support Saudi women’s right to drive gained a lot of feedback, both positive and negative. Some religious clerics even went so far as to voice their anger to their king over blatant disregard of this law, claiming that supporting this campaign was a “great danger”. According to cleric Sheik Mohammed al-Nujaimi, letting women drive would be the catalyst to destroying marriages, cheat on their husbands, decrease birth rate, and have more car accidents. While these reasons may make one question their validity, the one reason that was the most ludicrous was the idea that driving would trigger “the spending of excessive amounts on beauty products”. Where is that logic coming from? Since Saudi women have never been allowed to drive on their own, how can they use theoretical overspending on beauty products as a valid argument?

When word spread about this campaign that would take place this past weekend, a statement was issued by the Interior of Ministry which threatened to punish anyone who incited demonstrations or supported this movement. The government of Saudi Arabia are not allowed to issue licenses to women and are only driven by the men in their families. The restrictions even extend to garnering consent from male relatives in order to work or travel abroad. These laws have been in existence for years, but Saudi women are trying to break away from them. One woman who has been campaigning for the right to drive since 1990, Madiha al-Ajroush, a psychologist, says it plainly, “We are looking for a normal way of life, for me to get into my car and do something as small as get myself a cappuccino or something as grand as taking my child to the emergency room.”

These women just want to have the freedom to drive anywhere they want, at any time, without fear of punishment or shame from their families. That’s my view on this, what’s yours?

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