Saudi Women Get Around Driving Ban by Using Uber
Ride-sharing apps sometimes only recourse for females in strict Islamic state
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2015 12:12 PM CDT
In this March 29, 2014, file photo, Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.   (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

(Newser) – With female driving in Saudi Arabia effectively banned, mass transit not that great, taxis unreliable and dirty, and private cars expensive, women can have a hard time getting around in the country, the Los Angeles Times reports. "If you can't find a driver, you have to wait for your husband," Hala Radwan, a 29-year-old resident, tells the paper. "If not your husband, then your brother. … Sometimes everyone is just so busy that going from point A to point B is really difficult." The increasingly popular way now for ladies to get around town? Uber, local service Careem, and a handful of other ride-sharing services, the paper notes. The app companies there say more than 80% of their single-rider users are Saudi women, per the Times, while a regional GM for Uber notes that the number of users in the kingdom has multiplied by 20 since the company ventured in last year.

Technically there's no law prohibiting women from driving in the kingdom, but because of cleric-issued fatwas, women can't get driver's licenses, the Times notes. Other reasons conservatives spout for not letting women get behind the wheel in the gender-segregated state range from their ovaries getting damaged to increased chance of rape if their cars break down to coming into contact with male medical staff after car accidents. So ride-sharing it is, for now, for working women stuck in the system. That includes Radwan, who coughs up $700 or so a month to Careem to get back and forth to her marketing job. She says the GPS technology in Careem's cars makes them safer than taxis, and no one can tell she's not in a private vehicle—important since women using public transportation solo in Saudi Arabia are also seen as "lacking morals," the Times notes.
 

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