Saudi Arabian women campaign for the right to drive, plan protest for October 26, 2013Enlarge Photo
According to playground insiders, you shouldn't swallow gum, because it'll float around in your stomach for seven years. Also, chocolate will give you acne, and if someone slaps you on the back, your face will stick like that.
Now, there's another bit of grade-school science making the rounds: women shouldn't drive, because doing so may cause birth defects in their children. It might even prevent them from having kids at all.
Only thing is, that medical "fact" didn't come from a sixth-grader, it came from a grown man -- Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, a conservative Saudi Arabian cleric. Though he's not an ob-gyn or a doctor of any kind, he is the judicial advisor to a group of psychologists. So, there's that.
Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan insists that driving a car pushes the pelvis upward, damaging the ovaries. "That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees." He didn't explain why women who sit in the passenger's or rear seats don't experience such problems, nor did he cite any medical studies to support his theory. However, he did suggest that women who must drive in extreme situations, "out of pure necessity", might not be affected by this crippling condition.
Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan's comments come in response to a protest planned for October 26, when many Saudi women plan to get behind the wheel of the family car, in defiance of national law. The protest is gaining a good bit of momentum online -- so much so that the government has blocked the protest website.
The push to end Saudi Arabia's longstanding ban on female drivers last bubbled up in the fall of 2011, when a Saudi prince told news agencies that women should be allowed to drive. A young activist, Manal Al-Sherif, urged her peers to do just that on June 17 of that year, and she was ultimately taken to jail for her actions. The head of Saudi Arabia's well-known morality police has confirmed that sharia law contains no basis for banning female drivers, however, among the reforms that King Abdullah has proposed, there's no mention of issuing driver's licenses to women.
For more about the October 26 protest and the demands of Saudi Arabia's would-be female drivers, take a good long spin around Oct26Driving.com.