Saudi women can now drive, hardly seems like an appropriate 21st Century accomplishment in light of all the other changes. The question most likely is why is this now happening or why is this even an issue?
While this new found freedom would be seen by most as something to embrace, some Saudi women are reluctant to get behind the wheel. Considering the prevailing beliefs of gender inequality and other factors, their reluctance holds some validity.
Saudi Arabia is the last Middle Eastern country to lift the ban on women driving. But while the Saudi ruler has overturned one of the most sacrosanct prohibitions within the country, the response indicates that many are still battling with anxiety over this new freedom. Males and females alike seem reluctant to embrace this new found freedom.
Saudi Women Can Now Drive
Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarchy and the prevailing belief is that women should be shut up at home.
“The message they hear day after day at school is that girls are like candy — they need to be wrapped to protect their sweetness. Being on the streets, let alone being with strange men, means the removal of a layer of protection that had been ingrained in the minds of both genders.”
That being said, it’s hardly surprising that these women are reluctant to get behind the wheel. The question arises, “What would happen if a young female driver was pulled over by a police officer? Would she be harassed, molested or worse?”
According to one 20 year old female chemistry student in Riyadh, “I wouldn’t want to make history as the first person in Saudi for that to happen to. Men here have a very low mentality. I mean, think about how they’ve been taught for so long.”
Even though this opportunity brings many economic and financial gains to the country, the reluctance of these women to drive seems more than justified.
When traditions are so ingrained, one can hardly expect an automatic change in mindset. Hence the reason why young women in the two largest Saudi cities have no plans to start driving, even though they have licenses from other countries.
Armed with this sort of mentality and long standing stereotypical beliefs about males and females, another concern could be, how would male drivers interact with female drivers on the road?
There have been so many horror stories from female drivers in other Middle Eastern countries who talk of being forced off the road by male drivers.
Saudi Arabia Male Driving Record
The perception that males are better drivers than females, certainly proves to be erroneous in Saudi Arabia. Considering the fact that this country has had only male drivers thus far, the traffic accident rate is alarmingly high.
Data reveals that Saudi Arabia records at least 526,000 accidents annually, with up to 17 deaths daily. The country is actually second among Arab countries in relation to road deaths.
This fact coupled with these long standing stereotypical beliefs about males and females, certainly justifies the reluctance of some Saudi women to get behind the wheel, now that they’ve been given the legal right to do so.