Saudi women are defying the ban on driving while female. They’re taking the wheel as an act of civil disobedience.
Twitter and Facebook are the fora of choice for the #Women2Drive campaign that called for women with foreign driver’s licenses to take to the streets to protest the de-facto ban.
Today, several female drivers have uploaded videos of themselves (see below). One activist, Manal Al-Sharif, was arrested for putting a video of herself driving on YouTube last month. She was later released after a massive online petition was made on her behalf.
The police were reportedly told to take a soft-handed approach to the planned disobedience because at least one prince is in favour of getting rid of the ban. Some women reported receiving tickets, however. This contrasts to a similar driving protest in 1990, where Saudi women drivers were taken into custody.
Today’s protest was limited. Only 31 women are confirmed to have taken part, but this is just day one.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that restricts women from driving. The rule is not actually written in law, but some interpret religious law that this should be illegal. The rationale behind this varies. One reason is because it isn’t very safe to drive with practically your entire face covered in black cloth.
In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Saudi Arabia ranked as one of the most unfair to women. Saudi women are required to have a male relative with them if they wish to leave the house at all. They need to cover all but their eyes and hands in public, though some cities are more lax in enforcing this. Only men can hold political office and testify in court. Women, regardless of age, are required to have male ‘guardians’ and need their permission to travel.
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