Saturday, May 22, 2010

Women driving in saudi soon? Inshallah!

Driving instructor

Saudi-Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. There is in fact nothing in the saudi law that literally prohibits women from driving, nor does it come from Islam. Recently on Saudiwomans weblog, she translated an article about how to start implementing women driving in KSA from Alriyadh newspaper.

In the article various men have been interviewed regarding why are women prohibited to drive, and what would be in their opinion the best way to start allowing females to drive. They asked a Legal Counsel, Bandar bin Ibrahim Al Muhrij who had this to say: article thirty-two of the traffic laws states that “any person is prohibited from driving a vehicle before obtaining a driver’s license as is required in accordance with the provisions of this law”, and based on this text, the word “person” contained therein is not limited to the male without the female, indicating that the fact that driving licenses are issued exclusively to males is not supported by any document from the traffic system and its laws.

So banning women from driving is purely acultural issue. Actually, women were allowed to drive in Saudi some decades ago before the scholars suddenly realized its another way to control women haram and banned it. So it hasn't always been forbidden.Why are the scholars so insecure, do they think the women would run away if they could drive?

Commonly used excuses (mostly by saudi men but EVEN some women!) for justifying the ban on women driving:

-Women have other things to do like cooking, cleaning and taking care of kids.

Well I wonder how ALL the women in the rest of the world who are allowed to drive have time to do both !?
Actually if women could drive here they would have MORE time to spend with kids and at home. Now their time is consumed by waiting for their drivers or fighting with taxi drivers or getting lost with foreign drivers who barely speak a word of Arabic or English.

- Allowing women to drive will increase traffic jams because all women of the family would want their own cars and would want to drive.

Now this is just plain stupid. Just think about it. At the moment there are hundreds of thousands women who have to be taken to school, university or work every morning. To hobbies, shopping, friends houses etc in the evenings.. The driver takes them, drives back home, goes to get them again and returns home. Now isnt that always 4 trips, versus the 2 that woman by herself would take? Would the woman perhaps drive two cars at a time? Where is the logic? That's LESS traffic and cars. The woman could also take her sister, mother or whoever in the same trip. Also from what I've heard from Saudi women, not everyone would want to start start driving in the very beginning or possibly ever, or would want their own car. They are just too afraid, and no wonder because the traffic here is horrible!But lifting the ban would ease the traffic jams despite that. That takes us to the next excuse:

-The traffic in Saudi is so bad and dangerous women couldn't handle it

But why is the traffic so bad? Because its all men! Men are to blame for majority of accidents in all studies conducted around the world, plus have most speeding tickets and violations. If women were allowed to drive the traffic would be better for sure, women abide to laws more and are more cautious. This is a well known fact and supported by statistics from around the world. Many of the employed drivers in KSA are foreigners who don't care about abiding to Saudi laws. Also it's not rare to see 10-15 year old boys driving around with their fathers or brothers. So even they are seen as more competent than adult women.

If she was a boy, she'd be driving daddys jeep!

-its not safe for women to drive because men will start harassing them and chasing them with their cars
Well is this the womens fault?!Why cant the police handle the harassers? Thats a new job for the muttawa then, protect women dont harass them!They could even make a squad that specifically targets crazy young male drivers. Muttawas like to point the finger at the woman, she is at fault, she is being a temptress behind the wheel! The poor saudi men are at their mercy! Men simply cannot handle themselves, therefore, ban the women from driving is the solution.

-females cant drive because they must wear face cover, which prohibits them from seeing well enough to drive, hence subjecting them to dangerous situations

First of all women can see perfectly well with the facecover (niqab). There are niqab wearing driving instructors even in U.S. And if these scholars really think women cant see well enough with niqab and it subjects them to danger, then why are women supposed to wear it in the first place? How can they see well enough to cross the street, or which GMC or jeep they should hop in thinking its their husband or driver (a mistake would lead to haram mixing!!). How do women even go about their daily lives shopping, studying and working with it? How is a female surgeon supposed to see what she's doing, if the niqab blocks her view? Isn't that a more serious issue then? This is a very lame excuse.

Inshallah the ban on women driving will be lifted soon, it really effects negatively the whole Saudi society. Men suffer from it too, brothers, husbands and fathers have to constantly drive their female relatives around or worry about them being driven around by strange men. Women have to be in a small space with a strange man which is viewed as haram in all other situations in KSA. Only that should be enough to stop the ban. The drivers are usually from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, they speak poor english/arabic, can have violent driving style, might even harass the woman, make all kind suggestions, they might be chain smokers, wear way too much cologne, most often don't know where you want to go, and are usually late themselves yet get upset if the woman is 2min late..This is everyday reality for women in KSA.

The article however gives hope, because it has now moved the discussion from WHY cant women drive to HOW can we stop this madness..many good suggestions and I remain hopeful.

My suggestion is, lift the ban in phases. First let the women with international driving licenses drive, saudi or non saudi. They will be the most confident and can handle the road hooligans. Increase traffic control policemen in busy street areas (employ muttawas to chase after the men who disturb the women).
When the worst is over, allow married women to drive. Phase three everyone else who wishes to.
That way when the young saudi girls take to the streets the worst hooligans are already used to seeing women driving.

What do you think, how should it be implemented?


Soile said...

I totally agree! You had really good replies to every statement! Hopefully the ban will be lifted soon :-)

Anonymous said...

Very well written!

mib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

For God's sake, the RIDICULOUS DRIVING BAN needs to go NOW. If I was a Saudi or lived in Saudi, I'd KILL MYSELF! K..

Zahara said...

oh dear. This article was written almost 2 years ago, and we're still in the same position. Has King Abdullah read it yet? We ask Allah swt to lighten the load of women everywhere, and let us get from A to B in our own cars and in safety "where there's a need...."