Saudi Arabia Bans Women Drivers to Protect Them From Men, Says Top Religious Official

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The world is a dangerous place, especially so for would-be women drivers, according to Saudi Arabia's top religious official. 

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh, the kingdom's highest religious official, has said that the country's de facto ban on female drivers is important and necessary because being on the road was "a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil." Al-Sheikh specifically cited men with "weak spirits" who are "obsessed with women" as potential dangers. 

Read more: Saudi Teenager Ali Mohammed al-Nimr Has Been Sentenced to Death by Crucifixion

The grand mufti made the comment on the Saudi television channel Almajd, the Independent reported.

It is not strictly illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, however the religious Muslim country does make it virtually impossible since driving requires a license which cannot be granted to women. 

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The driving ban is only one of myriad restrictions imposed on women in Saudi Arabia. In addition to not getting behind the wheel, female Saudis cannot go anywhere unless being accompanied by a chaperone, cannot go swimming and cannot even buy a Barbie doll. Last year, a woman faced up to a year in jail after posting a video of her husband sexually harassing a housemaid to social media.

Though Saudi Arabia did allow women to vote in recent municipal elections, the country's abuses toward them and other minority groups continue to face regular criticism by advocacy organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.