Women can drive. I mean, of course women can drive. Anyone with the required faculties can drive, and the only possible reason a government can have for divesting women of the basic human right Henry Ford gave people to own a Model T and idle away hours of their lives in rush hour traffic is to limit their means of locomotion and, therefore, their independence, which is more or less how things stand in Saudi Arabia.
That will change if lawmakers heed the advice of Prince AlWaleed bin Talal, who has insisted that letting women drive will cut down on Saudi Arabia’s reliance on foreign labor. The country, which has nearly nine million foreign workers, recently embarked on an immigration crackdown in order to boost the proportion of Saudi citizens in private sector jobs. (According to Reuters, only 10 percent of Saudi citizens currently work in the private sector.)
On Sunday, the Prince made his proposal become Twitter-official, that is, he vaguely suggested that letting women driving would cut down on Saudi Arabia’s reliance on foreign drivers: “[The question of] women driving will result in dispensing with at least 500,000 foreign drivers, and that has an economic and social impact for the country.”
Well, when you put it in such xenophobic terms, how couldn’t we agree?
In the wake of pro-democracy protests back in 2011, dozens of Saudi women defied the ban on women driving by creating a “Women 2 Drive” campaign. Many women posted pictures or videos of themselves driving (one woman actually died in a car accident), and some protesters were detained briefly under charges of “challenging the monarch.”
There’s no actual law on the books banning women from driving, but in order to drive a car in Saudi Arabia, one needs to procure a locally-issued license. Those licenses, Reuters explains, are not issued to women, making it “effectively illegal” for women to drive.
Image via AP