Tomorrow–October 26, is an international day to support Saudi women. The media-friendly and blogosphere-ready playing field for the discussion of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is the de facto ban on women drivers. Women are NOT allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia–the only country in the world that bans them. While there is no actual law on the books specifically banning them, they are not issued licenses, so if they drive, they are driving illegally. Tomorrow, Saudi women will challenge the ban. There are thousands of signatures on a petition to try and change the conservative minds of lawmakers and clerics, but previous attempts have led to arrests, so international support and dialogue is critical. The issue grows complex for families, as there is very harsh law about women being in the company of a male who is not a family member, so even if they could, theoretically, hire chauffeurs, they could not be in the car with them (because, of course, Catch-22-like, there are no female chauffeurs)–this also means there’s pretty much no way to ride the bus or subway. Religious leaders have called the rumblings of protest immoral and corrupting of women–saying it is a dangerous conspiracy…just a reminder here, it is being spoken of as immoral for women. to. drive. a. car. to, you know, do dangerous stuff like buy food for the family or pick up the kids. Women in Saudi society have their lives restricted in so many ways: in addition to not having freedom of movement, they can be married off as child brides, without choice, by their male guardians, or, conversely, be banned from marrying (by the same male guardians) and banned from education or employment as well.
In 2011, a woman got in her car and made a YouTube video asking other women to join her in peaceful protest–and she was jailed for a week. Social media’s reach grows more daily, and there are online ways to be supportive. Check it out learn more (here is info from Amnesty International and CNN) and show your support of women testing the waters of independence.
Get involved with the October 26th Women Driving Campaign: