To those who object to women driving

To those who object to women driving

November 15, 2016
Dr. Fowziya Al-Bakr
Dr. Fowziya Al-Bakr

Dr. Fowziya Al-BakrDr. Fowziya Al-Bakr

SINCE Nov. 6, 1990 there have been continuous calls for authorities to allow women driving in Saudi Arabia. But like an object on the chessboard extremists who politicize the issue removed it in order to keep people busy with other issues facing the society.

As a result of this move, women-driving remains a major human rights issue, which is being discussed not only in the Kingdom but all over the world, affecting the country’s global reputation. Let’s discuss the issue once again in detail to draw the attention of authorities.

Some people might think why we discuss this silly issue now when the Kingdom is at war, fearing it would weaken the country’s unity. Opponents have been making similar justifications during the past 26 years to ignore this vital issue and sideline the demand of the weaker section of society.

We agree that it’s not an important issue and that there are other pressing issues and problems facing the nation. It is unfortunate that during the past 26 years, even at times of peace, the authorities did not take a decision allowing women to drive in the country.

Of course, women in Saudi Arabia are facing so many other important issues, which should be given priority. This argument is also very true but it does not prevent women from calling for their right to driving. I wonder why some of our intellectuals stopped writing about women’s driving right.

I would like to underline that the demand for women-driving does not negate any other rights of women. We would like to say to those who belittle the efforts to legalize women-driving that we’ll wholeheartedly support their campaign to win other rights of women.

The demand for women-driving does not trivialize other demands, such as cancellation of the male guardian system and improving care and services to female inmates of social care homes. Actually it backs other demands, which would be realized gradually during King Salman’s rule.

There is yet another argument that the demand for women-driving would encourage foreign interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs. This is also true. But the ban on women-driving being an unjustifiable and unacceptable issue, the global media would continue to highlight it.

We cannot provide any social and cultural justification to ban women driving in this modern era. Driving is extremely important for many sections of society and this means the ban concerns not a single section, rather it’s a daily concern of working women as well as others.

Another question raised by the opponents is that why we highlight the issue of women driving, not other issues concerning the women. The answer is very simple. Women-driving is a simple issue and Islamic teachings do not prevent women from driving their vehicles.

During the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) women used to travel on camels and ride horses. They took part in wars riding on these animals, which represented vehicles of those days. People can easily understand this issue and does not need any interpretation of religious texts.

In this age of modern technology when speedy developments take place all over the world the passage of a law allowing Saudi women to drive is long overdue. Such a move would contribute to realizing the objectives of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020. It’s needed for women to reach their work places and implement austerity measures.

If the law is passed, then measures should be taken to ensure safety of all motorists, women as well as men. I believe that the social and cultural atmosphere during the time of King Salman is apt to introduce women driving. The government should set out necessary rules and systems for women-driving and leave the matter to the choice of citizens.

If some people do not agree with women driving, we should not impose it on them. Let them drive their mothers, wives and sisters to work places, markets and other destinations. On the other hand, those families who agree with the new system can allow their women to drive to meet their personal or family requirements. This system will help many Saudi families avoid recruitment of foreign drivers.

At present, people are forced to accept the reality on the ground without any choices.

November 15, 2016