“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”
― Henry David Thoreau
Not just unjust, at times laws can be amusing too, one such law exists in Saudi Arabia- Apparently Saudi Arabia bans it’s women from getting behind the wheel. As bizarre as it may sound, half of the population of this ultra conservative gulf country is denied the right to drive a vehicle, which in a bigger picture, is a right to move on their own. For a fact, it is the only country in the world to have such restriction. The highways of the kingdom have not seen female drivers since time immemorial.
Before going any further, let’s talk about the origin of this peculiar custom, The ban shoots from the ruling family’s Wahhabism, a stern interpretation of Islam that requires women to get permission from a male caretaker not only to drive but get married, travel, work, and go to school. There is “no single Islamic text” or judicial ruling prohibiting women from taking to the kingdom’s highways. Seemingly there is no such official law in the country, but those responsible for ruling the country have time and again denied licenses to women and thus culminates this weird custom.
Think of a situation of a woman whose husband is at work , there is no driver at home and some emergency demands her to go out, Now , there would be nothing that could cause more inconvenience than this trivial law, apparently laws were enacted for convenience of the subjects only in the text books.
For the brave souls who dare to defy, the road ahead is not easy. If caught driving, Women are required to sign a pledge, saying that they won’t drive again, a second violation means signing another pledge and waiting for a male relative pick them up. Whoever picks them up has to; also sign a pledge saying that they won’t let the women drive. What makes the situation worse is the provision for penal punishment which may extend up to ten lashes, for an act of driving on the streets.
Recently a petition has been filed in the gulf country to lift the ban for women getting behind the wheels. The petition also encourages women to flout the kingdom’s driving ban. Those breaking the rules have been asked to post pictures of themselves driving, using social media like Facebook, twitter and Instagram , The movement has garnered significant attention from all over the world. The mindset of the people has been changing, In few of the pictures posted online by the ladies driving, the passersby are shown giving thumbs up and waves and such other gestures, to demonstrate their support to the movement, a lot of times even the traffic police is willing to let go of the women drivers, startlingly, a major proportion of the supporters consists of the male population.
The other day, while shuffling T.V channels I came across an interesting piece of news on the issue. One of the women from Saudi Arabia, being interviewed, on the T.V shared her dream of being able to drive a car in her home country, while dressed up as a lady and not a man. “It’s a silly daydream,” she added, “but that’s a fact. It’s the reality of my society; I mean the daydream of a young girl should be how to get to the moon … Not driving a car.” How true, only if those, male chauvinists out there were not deaf!
This article is written by Aprajita Tripathi, a law student from RMLNLU, Lucknow
To read more from her, visit her blog – leotaurian.blogspot.com