Private drivers and sexual harassment

Women driving to wipe out many negative practices, says criminologist


Saudi Gazette report

A NUMBER of experts have said the decision to allow women to drive will contribute to reducing abuses committed by migrant workers against children and other illegal activities.

With many families expected to fire their drivers, experts say children will no longer be at risk as they will instead be driven by their mothers and relatives.

In the past, there was widespread debate about the issues of sexual harassment of children by family drivers and other crimes they often committed such as robbing their employers’ homes. The decision to allow women to drive will contribute to ending such abuses by migrant workers. It is also expected that women will be given multiple opportunities for security jobs that intersect with their right to drive.

Dr. Yusuf Al-Ramah, an expert in crime and counter-terrorism at Qassim University and a security adviser in Qassim province, believes that women’s driving will push more than 1 million foreign drivers to leave the country.

“We also emphasize that cases of harassment of children and women will decrease,” he said while adding that there are other aspects related to the expected increase in cars on the streets, which may in turn increase the number of accidents.

“There are a lot of security precautions that must be considered before women start driving. The first precaution is that women should not drive unless they are mature and that there are specialized schools to train them in driving,” he added.

He went on to say that not every woman is capable of driving and the authorities need to take into account safety and security aspects and not give women a driver’s license until they have confirmed their expertise behind the wheel. He did not comment on the capabilities of male drivers.

Shoura Council member Dr. Iqbal Zine Al-Abidine Darandari, who is also a member of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, said the decision to allow women to drive came at a crucial time.

“The Kingdom, with its green flag, which has established 87 years of pride and cohesion for its people, made the decision to strengthen the role of women as active members of society. Women must be allowed to perform all roles alongside men,” she said.

“On behalf of the Human Rights Commission, I would like to express my gratitude to the Council of Senior Scholars for supporting the decision and correcting some misconceptions about women. Islamic law guarantees all rights to women and their driving does not, in any way, violate the Shariah and is in fact an implementation of the Shariah,” she added.

Darandari pointed out that this was the beginning of a new era in which women and even the whole Kingdom would embark on a wider renaissance against all misconceptions, practices and everything that hindered the march of the state toward progress.

As for safety measures, Darandari said the decision will contribute to reducing the number of foreign drivers in Saudi Arabia, thus saving money that is transferred abroad.

“Instead of wasting on drivers, this money will stay in the Kingdom and be spent on local businesses, which will help develop the economy. This will also ease the security problems caused by the presence of a number of drivers who do not hold valid residence permits but are still employed by families desperate for a driver. The decision will also reduce sexual harassment against children,” she added.

Darandari went on to say that women will not have to go through the current hardships they face when a driver call in sick or goes on vacation.

“Women will no longer feel like they are paralyzed when their family needs urgent intervention to get them to the nearest hospital. Mothers and fathers won’t worry when the driver is late in bringing their children home and fathers won’t have to leave work to rush and pick up their kids from school,” she added.