By Aishwarya Rai, Assistant International News Editor
On November 24, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia published a letter stating that it is high time women should be allowed to drive in the country. As Saudi Arabia is the only country in which women are legally forbidden to drive, the prince has stated that this law is parallel with the one that forbade women from receiving an education and that the financial, social, and religious advantages of reversing this ban are far too beneficial to overlook.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the 41st richest man in the world, holds no government position.
However, he leads the Riyadh-based investment firm Kingdom Holding Co., which has many links to western-based companies. His letter, published in English and Arabic, addressed the ethical dilemma involved with this ban, and stated that such laws are “unjust acts by a traditional society, far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion.”
He also addressed the economic downfalls of women having to rely on either the men in their households, outsourced chauffeurs, or public transportation.
Men generally have to leave their work in order to take their wives and children to commonplace destinations, according to The Independent, taking an unnecessary toll on the productivity of the work force.
Paying for drivers from abroad is a leakage of billions of dollars from the Saudi economy, which could be reduced by reversing this ban.
The controversy surrounding women’s rights, especially for driving, has been a work in progress for activists for over two decades. According to The Independent, in 1990, dozens of women drove in Riyadh to protest the ban, which led to their imprisonment for a day and their passports being confiscated. Publicized defiance of the ban has been seen with activists uploading pictures and videos of themselves driving in public.
Sahar Hassan Nasief, a women’s rights activist has stated that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s letter has given people vying for this progression in women’s rights “a lot of hope.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 10th print edition.
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