chapter  5
10 Pages

Gendered automobilities: female Pakistani migrants driving in Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia is known around the world as the only country where women are not allowed to drive on public roads – they are allowed to own cars and drive them in their own courtyards but not publicly. In the weeks leading up to the 26 October 2013 campaign to allow women to be able to drive in Saudi Arabia, one Saudi cleric gave an interview in which he warned that Saudi women who drove risked damaging their ovaries (CNN 2013). A Saudi activist group, Women2Drive, started a campaign in 2011 utilising online social networks demanding women be allowed to drive (Agarwal et al. 2012). As of April 2013 women were allowed to ride bicycles and motorbikes; however, significantly, this new rule stipulates that women can only do so as a recreational activity as opposed to a mode of transportation. In December 2014, two Saudi women were arrested for attempting to drive across the border from the UAE into Saudi Arabia, and their status remains unknown. For Pakistani women living in Saudi Arabia who are accustomed to driving, the lack of access to automobility in all its senses remains a major obstacle, as these women must rely on their male relatives to drive them or hire a professional male driver (InterNations 2014).