Opposition to Women Driving: From the Pulpit to the Stage
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – The play “Profit Becomes a Loss” that was performed at the Disabled Children’s Association Theatre, on the sidelines of Riyadh’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations, brought the issue of women driving in Saudi Arabia – an issue that has been widely debated over the past 20 years – back into the public eye.
The play’s cast includes a number of young actresses, and its plot dealt mainly with the issue of female driving. The play adopts the position of those who oppose women being allowed to drive and warn against the consequence of this, saying – according to the play – that this would give women delusions of liberation.
One of the actresses responsible for “Profit Becomes a Loss” which prepossess that women being allowed to drive would have negative consequences said that this play examines the negative consequences that women may face in this event.
The actress, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that “Even if Islamic Shariaa law permitted women to drive a car, they would still encounter numerous problems, and incidents would take place in the streets because of our customs and traditions.”
The play, which once again brings the issue of women driving in Saudi Arabia to the top of the agenda, concluded with the words “Help me, people, I’m afraid to drive…we do not want this civilization…so write this down; forget about driving. A smart girl should not accept a profit becoming a loss.”
The first public call for women in Saudi Arabia to be allowed to drive took place in 1990. At the time, a number of Saudi women took part in a protest by driving around the streets of Riyadh in a convoy of cars. This issue was raised once again in Saudi Arabia during an official Shura Council session in mid-2005, when a Shura Council member brought up the issue of women driving cars during a Shura Council session devoted to the Saudi Arabian traffic system.
According to sources within the Shura Council that discussed the issue of women driving, the economic and cultural aspects of this were considered, as well as its legitimacy under of Islamic Shariaa law, as well as the proposal that allowing women to drive would open numerous job opportunities to many Saudi women.
After this issue was discussed at the Shura Council, the idea remained a divisive one.
Some of the consequences that followed the debate on women driving – something not allowed under Saudi traffic law – was a systematic campaign being undertaken some religious figures against this idea, saying that this was an attempt at westernization, and warning against Saudi Arabian women being potentially being subject to harassment and even abduction.
It is worth noting that there are around 740,000 chauffeurs working in Saudi Arabia, as numerous Saudi families rely upon a foreign chauffeur [to drive the women of the family], especially in many cases where the head of the household is busy at work. Another reason for this is that these women might need to be chauffeured to their place of employment.