Women Driving In Saudi Arabia

Women Driving In Saudi Arabia













Table of Contents


Section                                                                          Page



History of Saudi Community……………………………3

Religion and tradition beliefs and customs on women….4

Women Rights…………………………………………5

Women and driving in Saudi …………………………………… 7

Reaction on Women Rights in Saudi Arabia ……………9


References……………………………………………. 11







Women Driving In Saudi Arabia


Section 1


This paper examines the rights of women, with special interest to the women of Saudi community. Religion and traditions limit the women rights in the area. The paper will highlight the work women’ activists in the area do and the penalties liberal women have to deal with because of relaying their ideologies. Moreover, the paper will look into detail the issue of women and driving in the kingdom. In addition, the role of government, religious leaders and the international community on the affairs of women will be discussed.

History of Saudi Community

Saudi Arabia is a monarchial kingdom and has been ruled by the Al-Saud family since 1932. Saudi Arabia basic law declares the Quran (the holy book of Muslims) and Sunni ( the tradition of the prophet Mohammad) as the country main constitution. Saudi Arabia follows its own state version of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism. It is regarded as the most conservative interpretations of the faith (Wynbrandt, 2010). The judicial system and the government are based on this construction of Islamic laws. The law does not accept that men and women should be treated equally.

Religion and tradition beliefs and customs on women

The holy book dictates the role, duties, and rights of the Islam woman. They are supposed to behave in a certain way, dress in a particular way and have limited speech where there are men around. The Quran requires the women to be always under a man guardianship, it says, “men are maintainers of women because Allah has made them to excel others (Quran 4.34). Therefore, a good woman is obedient and always follows the way of their men. This clearly explains that women do not have a say on their own, the men are the rulers while the women is the ruled. In the kingdom, the respect for women dignity and status is low.

Gender discrimination is an aspect of the Saudi community. Community life of women entails socializing within neighborhood networks, their families and in community work. A woman role depends solely on her abilities, education and her family connections. Women in the area are not allowed to own housing or rent houses for themselves. Owing of housing is considered not respectable. In the kingdom, sex segregation is a traditional custom. Wives, daughters and sisters are segregated from contact with strange men. The aim of this is to keep family honor and female purity. There are separate doors in most Saudi homes for men and women. The houses are designed with compartmentalized inner rooms, high walls and curtains to protect women from the public. The sex segregation holds in social functions and in the public.

Women in the kingdom are limited on the jobs they are supposed to do, women work in home settings and in girls’ school where they have little contact to unrelated men. Other places where women work are in areas as social work and development programs for women, bank sections that cater for female clients, medicine and nursing for women, computer library work, television and radio programming. Market places set for women sellers are also women areas. Unfortunately, about 7% of Saudi formal workforces are women.. Another tradition custom is that women should not go to court and when they do, it should be under male guardianship. The people of the kingdom believe that a woman testimony is not important. Women n the area are not allowed to participate in sports, for example in the 2008 Olympics Saudi Arabia had no female delegation. Their cultures treat women as slaves (Al-Rasheed, 2013). Female literacy in the region is lower than that of males in the region. Its quality is also poorer and segregation is done in all levels of elementary education.

Section 2

Women Rights

Women rights are entitlements guaranteed for women to enjoy such as welfare benefits based on legal rights, which must conform to the social framework of a society. Women and girls face many challenges and obstacles due to their sex, society tries to favor men and boys. In our traditional society, women had limited rights and their main work was to fend for their families, bear children and take care of their husband. For example in the Muslim context, women are taken as children and cannot do anything without guidance or supervision of a man (Al-Rasheed, 2013). However, as the world is changing the opinion of women is heard. The right to vote and take part in democratic activities was not there in the old days, though nowadays women are allowed to take part in these processes and hold public offices, their seat is not very well respected.

Women should have equal employment rights as the men. There tends to be gender discrimination in workplaces as women maybe subjected to low wages, lose of jobs due to pregnancy and unfair terms of benefits such as pension. For domestic workers, they face sexual harassments, poor wages, separation from their families, hard chores and so many tribulations in their daily work. Movement such as the global federation for human rights, advocate for the rights of women and girls who are highly abused in the society. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, most domestic workers are migrants who are so vulnerable, the domestic movements intervene by enacting laws to protect them and care for their welfare.

Although international women rights movements are doing a tremendous job in trying to enforce gender equality, women and girls around the world are still trafficked into forced labor, prostitution and early marriages. The girl child is refused education and in her effort of gaining her rights, rape occurs. Many deaths occur, around the world, related to pregnancy and childbirth is high. Most females do not make personal choices in their lives. The fight of gender equality is slowly realized.

Section 3

Women and driving in Saudi

Saudi Arabia is known as the community in the world that does not allow its women to drive. The law to an extent is based on religious edict as opposed to traffic law. Conversely, women can own cars but not drive them. Actually, there is no formal law that makes driving illegal but women are arrested in Saudi Arabia when they drive. Licenses are only issued to male counterparts.

Furthermore, it is all about religion because the religious leaders and scholars declare women driving as haram. They give these reasons as to why it is prohibited. First, driving would involve a woman uncovering her head and the traditional requires a veil all the time. Secondly, driving can render women to go out of the house often and it is not considered respectable. Thirdly, driving can make women to interact with unrelated men or non-maharam males, the scholars argue that traffic accidents occur. Fourthly, driving erodes the Saudi traditional values, for instance, gender segregation is an aspect of their culture, and consequently, women driving will go against this norm. The last argument the scholars give is driving will lead to overcrowding of streets and make young men lack employment or the opportunity to drive.

Women are discouraged also to use public transport. It is forbidden but is not enforced fully. Women are made to pay for taxis or hire services of a private. The questions remain to the poor women living in the Saudi kingdom who cannot afford to pay for taxes. For this reason, women remain immobile and this limits their rights of movement. The ban has received critics who reject the ban on the grounds of not accepted by Quran. It goes against the segregation customs, it is a financial burden to families and lastly it holds back women employment and education.

There have been various attempts by activists to lift the ban in driving. In early 1990s, 47 women tried to challenge the ban on driving. They drove in the main streets for half an hour, but the police stopped them. The female drivers paid heavy fines for their attempts. Those working in the government were fired and they were denounced by strict clerics from mosque pulpits. In addition, the women were prohibited from traveling outside the country. The second attempt in 2011, Saudi women activists acted on the same. This time there not stopped but the religious police could not change the rules (Lichter, 2009).

Many activists have tried to fight this ban. Manal al-Sharif is one of the women activists around the world who are determined to fight, challenge and expose discriminatory laws and policies. In May 2011, she took a video of herself driving and posted it online. It received recognition but she was arrested for that act. She was jailed for more than a week but her brave act proved her a hero. She inspired many to drive by her campaign “teach me how to drive so I can protect myself (Lichter, 2009)”. Many women in Saudi kingdom took clips of them driving and posted them. The police in an attempt to stop these acts arrested the women, took their passports and forced them to sign a statement in front of their male guardians that they would not drive again. Additionally, some women lost their jobs.

Lujain al-Hathloul, a Saudi student in Canada became an online celebrity after posting videos criticizing restrictions on women in the ultraconservative kingdom. She took on the streets on October 26, 2013 to challenge the ban on driving. Her slogan being, “if you did not get a chance to participate in the 1991 or 2011, a new chance to participate in 2013 has dawned” she hoped for huge number of girls to take part and end the ban (Lichter, 2009). The young generation poses a challenge to the top authority. They use social media to criticize official policies and their efforts have proven to be working. Overall, Saudi women remain hopeful and optimistic that the ban will one day be lifted even if their past attempts never materialized (Lichter, 2009).

Section 4

Reaction on Women Rights in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi saying, it is the culture, not the religion. Many Saudis do not see Islam as the major deterrent to women rights. The religious leaders take anything not addressed by the Quran as forbidden for instance, the issue of driving. Some journalists argue that if all women were given the rights the Quran guarantees women would have a better life. Religious leaders are very conservative in the kingdom. They take things like social media as evil and they call on the social media to be banned because they spread misleading doctrines and lead to gender mingling. Conservatives struggle to preserve culture traditional gender roles. They visualize Saudi Arabia as the centre of Islam hence a need to lead by example by conserving their traditions

King Abdullah government is taken as a reformist. His government tries to open opportunities to girls and projects for women empowerment. He strives to give women political representation (Wynbrandt, 2010). The government also tries to pass rules against domestic violence. The king supports the right to vote and drive and women are so encouraged by the king. The government is used to peaceful existence and they avoid protests at all costs. Saudi kingdom does not compromise when it comes to justice, their laws are strict and must be adhered, and all this rules makes it hard for people to advocate for their rights freely.

The western community compares the Saudi kingdom system of leadership as a system of apartheid. This refers to inhuman acts committed for maintaining domination by one racial group. The critics argue that gender roles in Saudi are oppressive and very conservative. They condemn the crimes against humanity and take bans such as driving as absurd. However female advocates of the government, argues that that the international community cannot understand the plight of women and uniqueness of the Saudi society. The activists argue that they do not advocate for women rights as per the western lifestyle, what they want are things according to Islam, their history and culture.


The purpose of this paper was to discuss women rights in general but look more keenly on the suffering of Saudi women. It has looked into detail the issue of women and driving in Saudi kingdom. The paper has answered why the women are not allowed to drive, the steps women activists take to try to lift the ban and the reaction of various people to the issue of women rights. Based on the discussion, I can conclude that religion and tradition customs form the greatest hurdle to women rights in the kingdom. A writer Samar Fatany says that Islam is a moderate religion and Muslims have a duty to correct the image that has been tarnished by extremists with no respect for a woman’s dignity or status (Fatany, 2007). Extremists resist change and insist on marginalizing the role of women, their excuse being Saudi society has a special religious character and women of Saudi should not be compared to women of other countries.

The Saudi clerics and government and all people of the Saudi community have an obligation to mend their names and work towards gender equivalence. The women brains have been brainwashed under the manner of religion and tradition. They have been convinced for years that they are weak, emotional and incapable. Therefore, I suggest that the women need to raise their game and work towards their autonomy, respect and self-rule.






















Al-Rasheed, M. (2013). A most masculine state: Gender, politics and religion in Saudi Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fatany, S. (2007). Saudi women: Towards a new era. Saudi Arabia: Ghainaa Publications.

Lichter, I. (2009). Muslim women reformers: Inspiring voices against oppression. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books.

Quran. (n.d.). Qura’an Majeed. Kutab-Khanah Isha’at-e-Islam.

Wynbrandt, J. (2010). A brief history of Saudi Arabia. New York, NY: Facts on File.







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