Saudi women's road rage could finally pay off

They may soon be allowed to drive. During a total eclipse, anyway.


Lynn Harris
March 19, 2008 7:55PM (UTC)

Rumors that Saudi Arabia could finally permit women to drive are circling closer to reality. In January, an unnamed government figure murmured that "it is recognized that if girls have been in schools since the 1960s, they have a capability to function behind the wheel when they grow up"; on International Women's Day (March 8), women's road-rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaidar got in her car for what might, looking back, be considered a victory lap. (YouTube here; English transcript here.) Then, just Tuesday, the Middle East Media Research Institute (which has fielded criticism of its own) reported that according to Alarabiya.net, the Saudi Shura Council (legislature) had formally recommended lifting the ban on female drivers.

As Jezebel also notes, there's just one caveat. No, wait. There's like 17.

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According to a source in the legislature, the Shura Council's recommendation also includes the following stipulations:

The woman driver must be under 30.

The woman's driving is conditional upon the permission of a relative [father, husband, brother or son]. [Son! "Can I have the car keys, son? C'mon, pleeeeeeeeease?!"]

The woman driver must obtain a driver's license from the center for teaching women to drive.

The woman driver must be modestly dressed.

The woman driver will be permitted to drive alone in the cities, but outside the cities she must be accompanied by a relative.

The woman driver will be permitted to drive Saturday through Wednesday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The woman driver must be able to prove that P=NP and have the power of telekinesis.

Yeah. The real (potentially) woot!-worthy detail here is that the council would impose an eight-month prison sentence and a fine on anyone who sexually harasses a woman driver.

So, guess it's a start. One reformist legislator told the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph that reversing the ban "was part of King Abdullah's 'clever' strategy of incremental reform." Let's hope giving women this inch lets them take many, many miles.


Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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