Amidst a campaign to fight Saudi Arabia’s de facto rule that bans women from driving, a Saudi cleric said that women who drive risk negative physiological impacts that could damage their ovaries.

From Reuters:

A conservative Saudi Arabian cleric has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom’s male-only driving rules.

[…]  In an interview published on Friday on the website, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan said women aiming to overturn the ban on driving should put “reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions”.

[…]  “If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” he told Sabq.

“That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees,” he said.

It’s unclear precisely what medical evidence Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan believes there is to support such claims, but Reuters reports that he did not cite any to support his arguments.  He is reported to be a judicial adviser to an association of Gulf psychologists.

There is no specific law that bans women from driving, but they are not granted driver’s licenses in Saudi Arabia, according to the Reuters report.

In recent days, some have been organizing a campaign to defy the rule.  On October 26th, many women plan to stage a demonstration and drive vehicles in an act of protest.

A petition at the website had already collected about 11,000 signatures late last week, as many women are hoping to bring more attention to the issue, according to CNN.

Women who want the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to lift a de facto ban that prohibits them from driving have launched an online campaign urging Saudi females to stage a demonstration by driving cars on October 26.

“There is no justification for the Saudi government to prohibit adult women citizens who are capable of driving cars from doing so,” reads part of an online petition on the website. Since Saturday, it has garnered close to 11,000 signatures.

In 2011, a Saudi women’s rights activist’s arrest sparked a similar action, as CNN summarizes.

In May 2011, prominent Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif was arrested after uploading a video to YouTube that showed her driving in Saudi Arabia. She spent more than a week in jail and quickly became a hero to numerous women in her country and across the Middle East.

It was a sign of just how influential she had grown that on June 17, 2011, dozens of women across Saudi Arabia, emboldened and inspired by al-Sharif’s ordeal, participated in the “Women2Drive” campaign by getting behind the wheel, defying the ban, and driving throughout the streets of their cities.

At the time, Ms. Sharif also suffered significant pushback.  The aforementioned YouTube video became inaccessible, as did a Facebook page she created called “Teach Me How to Drive So I Can Protect Myself.”  Other things also occurred to make it seem as though she’d called off the campaign.  But others saved the video and made replica accounts to keep the campaign alive.

CNN reports that some on the website have made reference to the 2011 campaign, as well as other similar prior actions, in imploring others to join on October 26th.


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