Saudi Prince says it's “High Time” that Saudi Women drove

Saudi royalty and business magnate, Al-Waleed Bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, has spoken up about the country’s backwards stance regardi...

Saudi royalty and business magnate, Al-Waleed Bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, has spoken up about the country’s backwards stance regarding women driving. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which does not allow driving licenses to be issued to women, hence making it illegal for them to take the wheel.

With a Tweet and a lengthy letter on his website, Al-Waleed espouses the cause with detailed reasons. To the rest of the world, some of his arguments might be verbose and should already be accepted norms, but we have to remember that the Prince is trying to convince a society who has been very resistant to this change. His appeal includes benefits from a financial, economic, social and, yes, even religious standpoints.

According to his letter, Saudi families have to employ foreign drivers – around a million of them in the entire country - who send the bulk of their earnings back to their home countries. He estimates this to be around SR30 billion (US$8 billion) each year, which if retained in Saudi, could be channelled back to boosting the economy. Let’s not forget that the Kingdom was dealt a severe blow when the price of crude oil came tumbling down and their coffers are no longer overflowing as much as it was before.

Al-Waleed also wrote about how this would allow more females to enter the workforce, as female drivers employed by other females, or as officers in the Traffic Department to handle accidents and violations committed by women.

The Prince dared to point out the hypocrisy of people who were against women driving for the sake of female virtue, when they have no objections against a woman being in a car alone with a foreign male driver. He posed the question: “Would it not be better from the standpoint of safety, security, not to mention religious morality, to allow women to drive their own cars than to expose them to the dangers inherent in having them driven alone by foreign males?”

However, Al-Waleed still proposes a few restrictions, including requiring female drivers to carry smartphones (no problem), allowing them to only hold driving licenses for cars (okay), and limiting them to driving only inside the city (well, baby steps).

Considering that about 40% of the 28 million that make up the Saudi population are female, we can expect a big big boom in the car market when (not ‘if’, because we’re optimists) the sudden influx of women drivers onto the public roads, not to mention a great leap for gender equality and human rights in the country, occurs. We’re looking forward to reporting about it when the time comes.


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