Myths

  • Saudi women cannot leave their houses unaccompanied

While it is true that ​guardianship laws still restrict women's freedom to travel abroad, there is no legal restriction on women travelling within the country.  Every day women take drivers, taxis or Ubers to get to work and go about their day-to-day lives. 

  • It is against the law for women to drive

No law has ever been passed in the Kingdom that explicitly prohibits women from driving. Rather, a de-facto ban has arisen out of more indirect measures; most effectively, the simple refusal of local authorities to issue licenses to women. 

Those who have attempted to drive have variously been charged for driving without a license, disrupting the peace, immoral behaviour, or in the case of Loujain al Hathloul 3 years ago, faced national terrorism charges. 

  • All women want to drive​​

Of course, many women want to drive​, and most agree that women should have the right. But many will also opt to keep their drivers once women's licenses become available, considering it more convenient and less stressful than navigating crowded city roads.

  • Saudi women don't know how to drive

A surprising proportion of women do. Those who have had the chance to travel or study abroad usually take the opportunity to learn while they are away. Those who haven't are often taught the basics by fathers or brothers on trips to the desert. 

In villages and rural areas too, the ban is less strictly enforced. Bedouin families in particular take pride in teaching their daughters how to drive, often large water trucks or pick-ups. 

The Driving Issue 

Why 'the Queens' don't drive

​Money 

By and large, Saudi women refuse to be driven by Saudi men. Instead they favour Indian and Pakistani drivers, not just because they're cheaper, but because they are less likely to know her family or gossip about where she's been. 

With thousands of new drivers arriving in the country each year, this human trade is worth billions in visa fees, residency fees, and medical care, leading some to claim that the reason for the ban has become largely financial. 

Safety 

The reason most commonly cited by Saudis concerns women's safety. The Kingdom, it is argued, is huge and largely barren. If a woman were to be driving alone and her car broke down, she would be left vulnerable; the possibility of sexual assault is a recurring concern.

Morals 

In addition to physical safety, women's abstinence from driving is has moral connotations. It is believed that a woman who comes and goes as she pleases, without informing anyone of her whereabouts, is more likely to her finding herself in morally questionable situations.

Traffic 

Another common argument pertains to the heavy and often chaotic traffic in the nation's cities. It is often claimed that the situation would become untenable if women were added to the roads. The fact that women are already on the roads, albeit in the back seat, is not considered a valid counter-argument.

Saudis Speak

"The driving here is always a constant, daily struggle for us. Even privileged women... it's not every day I have my brother or my father or my driver around. I just want to take care of myself as an adult." - The Prisoner (incarcerated for driving)

"The driving here is always a constant, daily struggle for us. Even privileged women... it's not every day I have my brother or my father or my driver around. I just want to take care of myself as an adult." - The Prisoner (incarcerated for driving)

 "How is it that you don't let a woman drive, but you're allowing her to sit with the driver - some guy she doesn't know - in the car for hours every day. It doesn't make any sense!" - The Runaway

"I have a driver, alhamdulillah, but it's so

expensive. Every month I have to give him a third of my salary.... I have three children at home and no husband to help out... I know women who have had to stop working. Just for this, for the cost of the     driver."  - The Security Guard

"No, It's better that women don't drive. There's enough traffic in the cities as it is. Anyway, a woman should be treated like a queen. You feel more like a princess in the back with your driver!" - The Nurse

"All people care about outside is the driving thing. I think they care about it more than we do! I want to tell them, really, we're fine. I swear! We go out, we live our lives. I think there are more important issues to deal with." - The Professional