Drive Off Into the Sunset

Not many may be familiar with the story of Shameem Pathan. Even the reliable Google disappoints when I look for information about this remarkable woman who should be an inspiration to everyone. She, on whom the song Mann ke Manjeere was based, was the lady who broke away from her abusive husband and his family and ensured her financial security by driving a matador van.

The fact that a woman driving a vehicle can be news is surprising but for the women of Saudi Arabia, every woman needs an inspiration like Shameem Pathan. But in their case, it is not just society’s disapproval that they have to overcome, they have to change the law.

In what is probably the worst country in the world for women’s rights, driving is proscribed by the law. Women may only venture out in the company of men and there are numerous other laws which all vary in their idiocy. Perhaps the most senseless fatwa issued by a cleric was about “Breast Milk Sons“, which aims to reduce contact between women and unknown men by feeding them breast milk so that they are bound forever as mother and son. Apparently there is some disagreement among clerics about whether the milk can be fed from a bottle or has to be drunk directly from the breast. (Yes I am being completely serious here.)

The women in Saudi Arabia declared 17th June as the date they would start driving. This came after a gutsy Manal al-Sharif drove around in a car. She was arrested and jailed for 10 days. All for driving a car.

In the face an oppressive patriarchal society that encourages the treatment of women as property, I hope there are enough Shameem Pathans among the women of Saudi Arabia who can help overturn these medieval laws. Whatever the case, I hope these women get their right to drive because ironic as it may seem, by defying the law, the women have proved that at least they have balls. Over to you men.

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