Unjust Driving Laws in Saudi Arabia

Within most parts of the world women are allowed to drive and most citizens would feel that if they were denied this right it would be unjust.  I was surprised to discover that women in Saudi Arabia are legally not allowed to drive. Virtually everywhere else in the world women have the right to drive and doing so would not submit them to be arrested, however, in Saudi Arabia this is not the case. This law is unjust as the driving law discriminates on the basis of gender. The men of Saudi Arabia are given the freedom to drive and come and go as they please yet “laws demand that a male guardian – a father, brother, or son – accompany women on any trip outside the house”. (Chulov, 2011). This is completely unjust in today’s evolving society where most countries believe that everyone should be treated equal under the law and not discriminated against due to their gender yet Saudi Arabia has a far ways to come as they are still suppressing the rights of women.

John Finnis examines law and the flourishing of human life and believes that there are seven basic forms of human flourishing that “are essential to a fulfilling life”. In addition, he believes that these goods do not lead to a fulfilling life solely as individuals; rather they arise “in the context of our interactions with other people, namely, in a community, led by an authority with a common good” (Pavlich, 2011). In relation to his seven guidelines that he sets out I believe that the driving laws for Saudi Arabian women are in conflict with his views. Finnis would challenge the driving laws within the sociability and especially friendship point of his seven guidelines. As these women are not permitted to drive, they would be withheld from going and visiting friends and family and interacting with those outside of their home. Yes, they would be able to go visit family and friends but they would be required to do so when it would be convenient for the male guardian to take them, if he is able to. This touches on another basic form of Finnis’ which is that of practical reasonableness. Mothers and wives would need to go grocery shopping, drop their children off at school and run many other errands but would have to wait until there is a male to chauffeur them around. Also, if an emergency arises and the male who is at home needs to be taken to the hospital, should the women be required to wait until another male guardian can come and drive to the hospital? This would be absurd and completely unreasonable. Not only is it unreasonable for older women, but young women as well. Since many women are now able to get an education in Saudi Arabia they too would be required to wait until there is a male guardian present to drop them or pick them up from school, or school related activities. Since his basic goods are in conflict with this law and the common good of society is not being achieved Finnis would argue that the lives of these women are not living a fulfilling life.

Furthermore, Finnis believes that practical reasonableness is “about rationality balancing our pursuit of different goods while respecting the basic value of each of those goods for individuals and society”. This law conflicts with that view as forbidding women from driving disrespects them and as a result shows that the government doesn’t value them within society. This law ultimately inhibits the lives of women across the country and they are viewed beneath men as the men are not forced to follow the same law.

In conclusion, I find it interesting to note that women are not even given a chance to drive in Saudi Arabia yet research in regards to driving has shown that “male drivers under the age of 25 are found to be the most reckless and aggressive, and as a consequence they are charged the highest premiums” (Slovenko, 2003) and yet their driving ability has never been put into question. In addition males “… also receive 98% of convictions for dangerous driving” (Slovenka, 2003). Although I do not believe that a change in the Saudi Arabian driving law will occur instantly, it will spark more attention if more women come out and discuss the issue and make it apparent that it has and will continue to affect their lives.

To end this post I have included an interview by CNN with Saudi Princess, Ameerah al-Taweel. The discussion regarding the driving law for women begins at 2:38.

http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/20/saudi-princess-opens-up-about-womens-right-in-saudi-arabia/

References

Chulov, M. (Sep. 25, 2011). Saudi women to be given right to vote and stand for election in four years. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/25/saudi-women-right-to-vote (accessed on September 21, 2012)

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford

Slovenko, R. (2003, Fall2003). The evolving status of women: from chattel to chauffeur. Journal of Psychiatry & Law. pp. 385-412

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Unjust Driving Laws in Saudi Arabia

  1. Interesting post!

    In your first paragraph, you write: “This is completely unjust in today’s evolving society where most countries believe that everyone should be treated equal under the law and not discriminated against due to their gender yet Saudi Arabia has a far ways to come as they are still suppressing the rights of women.”

    The term ‘today’s evolving society’ is ambiguous. Can we speak of a single, global society, or is it more appropriate to think about multiple societies or forms of social organization?

    Your use of Finnis to critique the prohibition on women drivers in Saudi Arabia is clear and effective. Good work. Your closing points regarding the relatively high levels of risk associated with male drivers make for an interesting addition to the discussion.

    Food for thought: Can Finnis’ framework for moral law (as a means to the end of the flourishing of human life) be used to justify forms of cultural imperialism? Does his list of ‘goods’ imply a particular form of social order? What do you think?

  2. jmzy

    I agree with your statement that Saudi Arabia still has a far ways to come. They are a society which is behind if we were to compare them with Canadian society, for example. It is an ambiguous statement to say that it is unjust in today’s evolving society. However, I am examining this from the viewpoint of an idealist, who would want to see a world where the rights of women are up to par with those of men.

    I’m not quite sure if I interpreted your food for thought question correct but if by cultural imperialism you mean the creation and or maintenance of unequal relationships in a society I do not believe that Finnis’ framework for moral law justifies it. Finnis does not view women as beneath men, he only examines the aspect of a human. Therefore, I believe his framework does not create an unequal relationship within society. I believe that his list of ‘goods’ implies a well functioning social order, a society an idealist would be an advocate for. If an individual is able to exercise these seven goods I believe it will not only benefit them, but the community as a whole.