Taking a Stand

Maha was one of several Saudi women who yesterday defied the ultra-conservative kingdom’s rule against women being able to drive. To many reform-minded women, the ban on driving typifies the country’s general attitude towards women’s rights, which manifests itself with bans on voting and on travelling without the permission of a male guardian.

~ Read more at The Independent

Good for them! I may be an expat but, like any woman who lives in Saudi Arabia, I am dependent on male relatives to take me anywhere. Taxis are not really safe when a woman travels alone unless I use my company’s limo service and they charge double of what ordinary taxis charge. Luckily, my Dad doesn’t complain if I need to go out. He knows how dependent me and my Mom are on him when it comes to that.

Driving is only the tip of the iceberg. When I applied for a visit visa to the UK in 2008, they wouldn’t even process my application unless I have a written consent from my father for me to travel alone. WTF! I had to call Dad to come immediately on a workday just so he could complete the necessary paperwork. Seven years ago, I had to get a authorized letter from him to show that he allows me to work. It only ended when I transferred my sponsorship to the company. And I’m not even Saudi! This is the kind of BS we have to face everyday just because we weren’t born with a Y chromosome.

Don’t get me wrong. I grew up here and I happen to like Saudi Arabia because it’s my second home. I’m used to it. I just wish they wouldn’t stay stuck in the 15th century when it comes to giving women equal rights. Even in a democratic country like the Philippines where everyone is free to do what they wish (within the law of course), women are still treated unfairly sometimes. But there, you can fight back. It’s not the case here.

Even the King favors giving women more freedom, including letting us drive. But there are rigid religious conservatives who oppose the idea.

One has to start somewhere. And, yesterday, some were brave enough to risk being thrown in jail just for a few minutes of freedom behind the wheel.

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