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In the contemporary environment, women driving in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remain one of the most controversial issues. In the context of conservative cultures, the process of change regarding different societal issues should be gradual in order for the culture to preserve its values and identity. In such a way, the most important aspect of defining whether women should have a right to drive in Saudi Arabia is to analyze the readiness for a change in society. As it happens, there are some aspects limiting the reforms concerning women’s right to drive. However, many experts claim that the country has matured enough in order for the reform not to interfere with the national identity (Gorney, 2016).
The objective of this paper is to present the arguments from both sides of the discussion on the issue of whether women should be able to drive legally in Saudi Arabia. The supporting arguments will include making the lives of women and men of Saudi Arabia easier and allowing women to be more engaged with the society and to have opportunities that will help them to take care of themselves, their families, and their country. On the other hand, arguments against women’s right to drive include the possibility of cultural conflict, the potential non-adopted roads of the country, and the effects on the criminogenic risk factors. The paper is also to provide an assessment of the arguments pro and against in the concluding section.
Reasons for the issue
The first aspect that needs emphasis is the fact that women’s eligibility to drive, of course, is a matter affecting the society on the whole rather than the problem concerning mere women. Al-Maeena (2016) claims that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia even suffers some loss in the sphere of the tourism industry, compared to the neighboring countries and, especially the UAE, because of this issue (Al-Maeena, 2016). Thus, in some ways, it has not only cultural but also an economic impact. Furthermore, in terms of saving up finances, allowing women to drive could be a positive prospect. In particular, if women can get around the city, they could do more things for their families and themselves.
Due to a larger number of opportunities that eligibility to drive would bring into Saudi women’s lives, they would experience improvement in self-worth and contribute to resolving other social issues as well. Also, the lives of women would become easier (Al-Areed, 2016). They would be able to take better care of children and families, as well as find opportunities for personal development, education, and making society a better place.
Reasons against the issue
First of all, Saudi driving law is one of the representations of the gender gap in the kingdom, and it would be unfair to try to interpret it from a different cultural perspective. From the point of view of Western countries, the fact that women are not eligible to drive seems like a ban that does not have sufficient grounds. However, the law did not appear outside the context of the country, and the reasons that preceded it, in the first place, concerning the cultural sphere. The relationships to gender differences are not the same in different cultures. It is also significant to underline that, in the case of Saudi Arabia, those positions on those differences constitute a national identity. It would be an unreasonable move in terms of Saudi society’s integrity to attempt copying the legislation supported in other countries.
Despite the fact that everyone admits that there are some distinct advantages in the societal model commonly accepted by the Western countries, it is not a reason to undergo a rapid change and re-invent the societal norms. Furthermore, the best way to conduct a profound change is to do it gradually (Syed, 2016). The main aim of Saudi society should be to take all the best and most efficient practices of the Western democratic societies but to do it consistently and without any rush. Otherwise, it would only harm the cultural identity and divide society into those who strongly support or strongly oppose the idea. Moreover, in some scenarios, the opposition may eventually become disappointed with any progress that the country is trying to maintain.
There is no denying that women’s eligibility to drive may eventually be a significantly good decision for Saudi Arabia, but it is also important to consider the actual state of the society and its readiness. The cultural implications, in this case, are crucial (Syed, 2016). First of all, the integrity in the kingdom relies on religious values and beliefs, and considering this perspective, the fact that women are not issued driving licenses, partially, has to do with the need to maintain decency.
The concept of a decent way of allowing women to use their personal mode of transportation would require the country to introduce women traffic wardens and police. In other words, this aspect of women’s eligibility to drive is not thought through yet. There is an opinion that unless some issues are resolved, driving would represent a potential risk for women since (Fox News, 2016). Moreover, the roads are not equipped enough for the change, and there is neither management plan nor personnel to attend to women’s needs while they are in traffic.
Another aspect that needs discussion is gender-related risks, on which some of the opponents of women’s driving make an emphasis. Particularly, the issue concerns the fact that women in traffic could unintentionally evoke unneeded interest from male drivers, which “could cause female drivers harm, and family members would not know the whereabouts of women” (Fox News, 2016).
In such a way, those arguments mostly refer to the overall lack of readiness for female drivers, claiming that neither infrastructure nor citizens are ready to incorporate the change.
Overall, both the arguments for and against issuing driving licenses to women and allowing Saudi females to drive strongly refer to the need for including not only women’s issues but also a general societal impact. From the perspective of advocating Saudi women’s right to drive, it is reasonable to assume that more opportunities for women would improve both the quality of their own lives and the lives of their families and children. Of course, being able to attend public places without guidance was a big step for women who want more participation in the life of the society, who want to contribute to their country’s development, and take better care of their children and families. And being able to drive would be a reasonable next step in this direction.
On the other hand, there are some rational limitations. Although female drivers would contribute to societal freedom and progress, any change needs careful consideration in terms of cultural context. The change needs to be gradual; otherwise, without proper conditions in infrastructure and public opinion, allowing women to drive would cause damage in terms of societal integrity. Thus, this issue needs to relate to the profits for society overall.
Al-Areed, Thuraya. “Women’s Right To Drive.” Saudi Women Driving, 2016.
Al-Maeena, Tariq. “An Argument Demanding A Second Look.” Saudi Gazette. 2016.
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Gorney, Cynthia. “The Changing Face Of Saudi Women.” National Geographic. 2016.
Syed, Imran. “Women’S Right To Drive.” Saudi Gazette. 2016.
Fox News. “Top Saudi Cleric Reiterates Support For Ban On Women Driving.” Fox News. 2016.