Monday, September 30, 2013

Saudi cleric says driving risks damaging women's ovaries

This story is being reported widely - here is the BBC version. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.

Women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and producing children with clinical problems, according to a conservative Saudi cleric.

The comment, made by Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan, came as activists step up their campaign for women in Saudi Arabia to be allowed to drive.

Women are being called upon to defy the ban and drive on 26 October.

The campaign, started on Twitter, has attracted more than 11,000 signatures.

It is the latest in a series of campaigns over the past two decades for women to be allowed to sit behind the wheel.

The ban on women drivers, while informal, is enforced by Saudi police through fines and arrests. Only men are permitted to acquire driving licences.

"If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards," Sheikh Lohaidan told the news website

"That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees."
Sheikh Lohaidan is reported to be opposed to reform more generally and granting women more rights in the kingdom.

Opponents of giving women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia say it offends the country's traditional code.
But those behind the campaign for the ban to be lifted point to inconsistencies, such as the need for women to employ a male driver who is not a family member.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saudi Arabian Women Urged To Protest Against Driving Ban By Getting Behind The Wheel On October 26

Huffington Post UK is among many media outlets reporting on a planned day of driving in October. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below. The story is by Sara C. Nelson, and was published on 9/23/13.

A new campaign urging Saudi Arabian women to hold a “day of defiance” against the country’s driving ban is underway.

An online petition entitled “Oct 26th, driving for women”, had, at time of press, amassed more than 8,000 signatures in just two days.

Literature on the website reads: “The campaign has no anti-Islamic or political agenda for neither Islam nor the official laws of Saudi prohibit women from driving.
saudi arabia women

Saudi Arabian women are being urged to hold a 'day of defiance' against the country's driving ban
“Islam and the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia both ensure that all, regardless of gender, have the right to freedom of movement. King Abdullah has also stated the ban is only societal.”
It urges women and men alike to sign the petition and share it on social media sites. Women are also encouraged to drive, have lessons and post videos of themselves doing so.

Though it’s technically not illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, a fatwa issued in the '90s banned the act, making it very difficult for women to get around town without a man, CNN reports. A statement from the Ministry of Interior backed up the decree.

Allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia would also mean no more virgins and an increase in homosexuality, according to academics at Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, Majlis al-Ifta' al-A'ala, it was reported in the Telegraph in 2011.

More pornography would be used if women were allowed on the roads and rates of prostitution and divorce would also rise, the report added.

The upcoming day of defiance follows the work of the Women2Drive campaign, which also calls for “freedom drivers” to take to the roads in protest. The face of the movement is Manal al-Sharif, who was arrested in May 2011 after uploading a video of herself driving through the streets of the city of Khobar in Saudi Arabia.

In 2005, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of the Interior, Prince Naif, told the Saudi Press Agency that the controversy over driving is an exaggerated one. He believes "that this is a controversy which has no meaning because it is a social matter to be decided by society. It looks like some people want to make it an issue, but it’s not," he said.

Because Saudi Arabia doesn’t have reliable public transportation, women are wholly dependent on male relatives or hired drivers to go to the supermarket, school, work or even the hospital.
Religious police only recently lifted a ban on females riding motorbikes and bicycles – as long as they wear the full-length veil and are accompanied by a male relative.

The Gulf Kingdom is governed by Sharia law, and it is illegal for Saudi women to travel abroad without male accompaniment. They may only do so if their guardian agrees by signing a document know as a 'yellow sheet' at an airport or border crossing.

In November 2012 it emerged women were being electronically monitored with authorities using SMS to track them and inform their husbands of their whereabouts.

It was only in 2011 that women were given the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015.

Saudi religious police told not to arrest women drivers

The Gulf News is one of several media that reported this story on September 19, 2013. The story is pasted below and a link to the story is here.

Dubai: Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia have been told not to arrest women driving cars.

“There is no law or specific text that allows the Commission members to do it,” a source at the religious organisation said, the London-based Saudi daily Al Hayat reported.

“The arrest of women driving cars is within the powers and jurisdiction of the security authorities. The Commission for the promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice applies the rules of the state and cannot go beyond them.”

The Commission members have been told not to interpret cases or commit offenses related to the prosecution of women on charges of driving, the source said.