Politics/community: Last year, Saudi Arabia took an historic step towards recognition of women's rights by bowing to international pressure and allowing to female athletes to compete in the Olympics. At home, women's rights activists are up in arms, fighting restrictions outlawing women from driving.
According to conservative Saudi Arabian cleric and judicial advisor, Saleh ben Saad al-Lohaidan, banning women from behind the wheel is entirely beneficial for the health of future generations. He claims that women drivers risk damaging their ovaries and giving birth to children with clinical problems if they drive due to the position that the pelvis is placed in while operating a motor vehicle. He urged activists trying to overturn the ban that they should put "reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions."
"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," he told the Sabq newspaper.
"That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees," he said. Al-Lohaidan's claims are unsubstantiated and he has failed to cite specific medical research which support comments.
Religious authorities support the ban, saying that driving is an unnecessary risk and can cause birth defects due to the pressure on the ovaries.
Since driving is illegal for women and public transport is poor, the only viable option is to hire a driver which is a cost that not all can afford.
In 2011, activist Manal al-Sharif initiated a social media campaign called Women2Drive. She filmed herself driving in May 2011. The act drew 12,000 facebook fans to her page 'Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself'. Al-Sharif was arrested for driving and jailed for nine days. Her brother was detained twice and harassed for supporting his sister. He has now left the country with his family. Al-Sharif now lives in Dubai.
The argument has been rekindled under the recent 'Honk for Saudi' campaign. Activist Wajeha H. Al-Huwaider filmed herself driving a car last year and is seen as the poster child for women's rights in Saudi Arabia. The campaign encouraged a day of disobedience on October 26 where, according to Amnesty International, 35 Saudi women got behind the wheel. Their videos were uploaded onto YouTube. Police detained women in their cars until the arrival of their guardians and were forced to sign a pledge stating they would not drive again.
In 1991, a group of 47 women drove through the country's capital city, Riyadh. After being arrested, many were further punished by being banned from travel and suspended from their workplaces.
Saudi Arabia is notorious for its treatment of women. Under the guardianship system, women are unable to open a bank account, travel overseas, work, go to school or even get married without permission of her husband, father or brother.
Adulterers can be sentenced to 100 lashes, with unmarried adulterers put forward to be stoned to death. The government does not recognise spousal rape. Any rape occurring outside of marriage states that the female rape victim is punishable, as she is at fault for illegal "mixing of genders".