Women Driving Debate, Again
wajiha Al-huwaider ( human rights activest )
It was the day of November 6, 1990 when more than fifty women, whom university professors and some of their students decided to break the silence and drive their cars for half an hour around the capital city of Saudi Arabia, protesting against their country's ban on women driving. The police arrested them immediately even when they showed their international drivers licence. In addition, the police asked their male guardian to sign a statement promising they wouldn't do this again. Moreover, they weren’t able to work or travel for one year as their passports were confiscated. The inability to work or travel was not the only thing these women face at that time but also the protestor's names and their family name was spread everywhere on the streets and mosques, as they were called "whores" and "pimps", and in one day the heroes turned into a bunch of pariahs. After eighteen years from this historic event, the protesting of these women changes nothing. The debatable issue of letting women drive in Saudi Arabia has come to the surface from time to time, especially after some women write about it in the newspaper or even take an action toward it. For example, Wajiha Al-Huwaider, a human rights activist, tried to send a message to the public when she drove her car in a private compound. As many of people saw on YouTube, that women should not be denied this right just because she is born female. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world who inhibits women from driving by using many excuses to not to change this thing. Although some governors and religious scholars oppose the regulation of allowing women to drive, there are several reasons that encourage reversing such decision.
Opponents also argue that supporting this decision can increase the number of sexual harassments cases among women if they decided to be on the road alone. In spite of this claim, the number of harassment charges related to sex was not low. The sexual abuse does not report itself. Many children and women are afraid to report these cases because they are afraid they might have received the blame while they are victims. Why do the opponents assume that women don’t know how to deal with their problems in different situations, while they trust and encouraged 16-year-old males to be on the road even if he is behaving irresponsibly? Women are grown up and able to make decisions and actions like male adults. The Saudi society and government usually does not take serious action toward women abuse since they are the ones who encourage such action by improperly dressing or talking. Moreover, due to the fear of bringing shame to the family name, the victims stay silent. As a result, The number of these cases is not consolidated therefore This issue should undergo investigation to prove the influence of hiring private drivers on families and women especially as Nasser Aloud, a professor of social services, reported. According to Aloud, the number of the private drivers in Saudi Arabia has reached to 740,000 drivers. In addition, because families and women are in need of someone to drive them everywhere and there is no chance for women to access the public easily the number of the private drivers might increase if the banning continues. The regulation of allowing women to drive can help to reduce the sexual abuse cases as we decrease the times women and children are spending time alone with a stranger. By encouraging women to work as private drivers, we are helping to ensure that women who cannot drive or the children will be in safe hands. Because the foreign workers don’t speak the native language fluently, and they are not familiar with the society traditions so that might not help the people to reduce the sexual harassment cases as such law still absent.
Opponents' state that women do not need to work while there are somebody taking care of them since the opponent believe that work and bring the money is the male duty and it is not even necessary for women to work. However, there are more than 70% of Saudi women finished university degree but only 5% of them working for private sectors. In addition, the unemployment rate of the women in the kingdom up to 79%. Why women should live dependently for their whole life, while they can work and enhance their social life and economical condition as well. In fact, Saudi women have the lowest percent of participation in the labour force among the other gulf countries. For example, the highest rate was for the United Arab Emirates 59% while the lowest percent was for the Saudi women 15% for the government-employed and 5% for the private sectors. The differences between Emirates women and Saudi women obviously clear as the UAE women have many privileges over Saudi women. By supporting such decision, we are offering huge work opportunity for the women. Not only increase the job chances but also the country will benefit from keeping the money circulate inside the country which is positive for the national economy as the foreign drivers send the remittances abroad.
To conclude, in every society you will find different opinion of different issues that may people face every time and it is not fare to take one of these opinions into account and ignored the rest. No body will suspend from his/ her rights. There are always options and those who are not agreeing with women drive they can choose not to do. Religious and opponent always taking the easy way to evade the discuss of many issues by saying that the society is not ready yet for the change and neglecting the people's right to express their opinions about many issues. This is unbreakable circle and we need to understand as Saudi men and women that the longer we wait the harder it will get to change it. All we need is to train the police officers and be harsh on whomever breaking the rules of driving on the road by execution of punishment and penalties. In addition, if they aware of the mingling between both sexes then establish separate driving schools for the women could be the solution of this aware. It will be hard at the beginning but for sure, it will work at the end.