Saudi Cleric Tells Women That Driving Will Damage Their Ovaries

Ahead of another demonstration to further women’s rights in the country comes an odd warning.
Women in Riyadh are shuttled by drivers. (Photo: Fayez Nureldine/Getty Images)
Sep 29, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

October 26 is gearing up to be a landmark moment for women in Saudi Arabia, many of whom are expected to drive their own cars that day in order to protest the country's de facto ban on female drivers.

In anticipation of the protest, conservative cleric Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan told a Saudi news site that women should rethink this decision, and put "reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions."

Reuters reports the cleric explained that driving could cause extreme complications for women's reproductive health.

"If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards. That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degree."

The medical studies the cleric refers to remain a mystery.

There's currently no law on Saudi books making it explicitly illegal for women to drive—but only men are granted licenses. And women who are found to be driving can be arrested and charged with politcal protest.

Still, many women who spend time abroad, or are secretly taught by their husbands, know how to drive a car.

The organization, Oct26Driving, states, "There is no justification for the Saudi government to prohibit adult women citizens who are capable of driving cars from doing so." The site's online petition, which calls for the state to lift its ban, has already gained over 12,000 signatures.

King Abdullah is reportedly focused on reforming women's freedom in Saudi Arabia, but his reforms have come slowly. He still hasn't addressed the issue of granting women driver's licenses, but it's possible that October's demonstration will leave him with little choice.

Mai al-Swayan, an economic researcher in Saudi Arabia, told CNN that she definitely plans to get behind the wheel of her car on October 26. "I will simply use my car to drive to my normal destination...driving the kids to the mall or family visits, or even grocery shopping...I am a capable woman and this ban is a clear violation of my rights."