Saudi cleric says driving can damage women’s ovaries

Saudi women driving
The Oct. 26 logo depicts Saudi women behind the wheel.
Credit: Oct26Driving.com

A high-level cleric in Saudi Arabia warned women against driving cars and said doing so will damage their ovaries. Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan said in an interview published on Riyadh Connect that driving can have a “physiological impact on women and could affect her ovaries and push the pelvis higher as a result of which their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees.”

Saudi Arabia has long held male-only driving rules, but female activists in the country are challenging the ban. Activists have called out to Saudi women to drive on Oct. 26. The petition website Oct26Driving.com has been blocked in Saudi Arabia. But despite the efforts of al-Luhaydan and his cohorts, the petition seems to have only grown stronger, sparking plenty of tweets and media attention in the West.

The petition counters claims from conservative Muslim politicians that female driving is against their religion: “The campaign has no anti-Islamic or political agenda for neither Islam nor the official laws of Saudi prohibit women from driving. Islam and the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia both ensure that all, regardless of gender, have the right to freedom of movement.”

Organizers of the petition have called for supporters to teach women how to drive, print out the Oct. 26th logo and hang it their car window and write about the petition on social media.

Al-Luhaydan is known for his extreme conservative views. He countered King Abdullah’s prior reforms toward women rights and was removed from his post as head of the Supreme Judicial Council in 2009. He remains a member of the Senior Council of Scholars, which is a highly influential group that advises the government in Saudi Arabia.


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