Saudi Cleric Says Driving Hurts Women’s Ovaries

He made the comments just as a new effort to allow women to drive in the Muslim country appears to be gaining support

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HASSAN AMMAR / AFP / Getty Images

Saudi women have few travel choices: they either must take a taxi or have a male companion drive. But a new campaign encourages women to flout the ban.

A top Saudi cleric has set eyes rolling across the globe for suggesting that driving may cause damage to female reproductive organs, Reuters and CNN report. As Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, an adviser to a group of Gulf psychologists, told the website sabq.org in an interview published on Friday:

“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 degrees.”

Already, a Twitter hashtag, #WomensDrivingAffectsOvariesAndPelvises, has sprung up to poke fun at the leader’s controversial remarks, which were meant to deter women from participating in Oct26driving.com, the latest campaign calling for Saudi women to drive cars. The movement also boasts an online petition that has racked up about 12,000 signatures so far, CNN reports. Gynecologist Mohammed Baknah argued medical studies have not proven that driving hurts female reproductive systems, the Associated Press reports.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ban on women driving is based on a very conservative interpretation of Islam that prohibits granting driver’s licenses to women and requires women to get permission from men in order to travel, open bank accounts, attend school, and get married, among other things.

Despite prior setbacks for the grass-roots effort to allow women to drive, the Oct26driving.com campaign appears to be gaining traction. The country’s version of a morality police made supportive comments earlier this month: “Islamic sharia does not have a text forbidding women driving,” said Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh, head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, according to a Sept. 19 Reuters article.

This article was updated to add a doctor’s response to the cleric’s controversial statement. 

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MORE: Saudi Arabia Reportedly Deports Men for Being ‘Too Handsome’

1 comments
norainnorainbows
norainnorainbows

This information is from a society where seat belts are not required, chain smoking is common and girls are prohibited from riding a bike.  The world is a definitely a crazy place and Saudi Arabia seems to leading the pack in stupidity.  Statements like this ignorant sheikh's is one reason why the Muslim world should strongly consider establishing a council of international Islamic scholars instead of the idiocy that permeates from KSA.  Now I again have to spend my entire lunch hour explaining to my non-Muslim co-workers that whatever this man said does make absolutely no sense.   By the way, Mr. Saudi Sheikh, I have had a driver's license since I was 16, had my last child when I was 40 and never have had any medical problems. I will note that just reading ridiculous fatwas from the likes of men like you hurt my eyes.