• Sunday, October 26, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Red light for Burqa-wearing drivers in Bahrain

    Guest blogger: Suad Hamada, IPS correspondent in Bahrain

    Dressed to drive? By S.Hamada

    Dressed to drive? By S.Hamada

    Burqa-wearing women may lose the right to drive in Bahrain over a conflict between government and conservative lawmakers.

    The government wants to amend the traffic law and grant male traffic officers the right to ask women to lift the veil and show their faces.

    On the other hand, some lawmakers are loath to approve the amendment or at least demand that female traffic officers be employed for this task.

    Let’s hope that in either way it will be a win-win situation for women: that they will continue to drive, and enter a job sector that has been reserved for men since the 1970s.   Bahrain doesn’t impose a dress code on women. Wearing a burqa (or Niqab, in Bahrain) is a personal choice.

    OK, not all women here wear a burqa as personal choice; some do it to obey their male relatives or conservative families. Whatever the reasons, burqa limits women’s social and professional activities. For example, they cannot eat at restaurants without closed cabins nor work in many sectors except those with limited, female-only jobs.

    Anyway, women who feel comfortable wearing a burqa shouldn’t be discriminated or underestimated. Females worldwide should be allowed to speak their minds, lead their lives to the fullest and freely practice their faiths.

    Forcing women to take off their burqa is as cruel as forcing the veil on them.

    A measure of independence

    Burqa-wearing women in Bahrain have one important right – they can drive.

    This is fairly new. Before 2006, burqa-wearing women drivers were harassed by traffic officers and fined.

    In 2006 the government allowed burqa-clad drivers as a result of pressure from conservative MPs, who represent the majority of the Lower House, with the proviso that these women should, if requested,  show their faces to traffic officers, for security reasons.

    Not all were pleased with that decision. A Bahraini columnist, Abdullah Al Ayobi, argues that, for security reasons, fully covered women should not drive. He wrote last year that Bahrain was the only country in the world that allows unidentified individuals to drive.

    Being able to drive has made life easier for women, especially with Bahrain’s poor public transportation.

    We will soon know whether burqa-wearing women will continue to drive legally in Bahrain.

    • http://hippocampa.wordpress.com/ Saskia

      I agree with your points. The practical side of the matter which seems to be overlooked here is not to do with whether people can be identified, but whether they actually have good enough vision to drive. Maybe niqabs are ok, but with a burqa people are practically blind.

    • Lucy Daily

      That is funny! The women do not even have to go to the drivers license bureau, they all just use one copy of the same license. only 1 woman in Bahrain can pass the driving test and all the others just pay her to take the test for them, or better yet, it is a guy under the burqa getting rich charging all the burqa clad women to take the test for them!

    • R. Sharma

      It is good that Bahraini women who wear the burqa are allowed to drive. One hopes they do not lose this right if the conservative MPs have their way. I guess for a Traffic Officer to ask a driver to show her face for reasons of security is quite legitimate. After all the same women WOULD show their faces to immigration autorities when trying to board an international flight.

    • http://genderandresources.blogspot.com/ Geeta

      Hi Mercedes,

      I do frequently visit your blog. Its interesting for me to know about different gender facts and cultures posted in your blog.

      Getting something new on knowledge of gender progress is really good. I agree on views you highlighted on pros and cons perspectives of the Burkha wearing. Yes it is to be sure that women should be allowed to act as per should be allowed to speak their minds, lead their lives to the fullest and freely practice their faiths. But this things rarely happens if men do not want to accept it.
      I have found that women in many places lack conscientzation and accept it as their norms which they think that never can be changed.

      I had seen one of my friend from Bangladesh quite well educated lived her life as normal like us but later after her marriage she started to wear Burkha dress. I asked about this change and she replied my husband want me to do it. I was quite shocked since her husband was also quite well educated and working in the reputed international organisation. I was deeply sadened by the conservative thinking possesed by her husband and she was imposed to act as per his decisions. It is therefore necessary specially for men to take under gender mainstraming and trinings to have them better understand and realise importance about the gender stuffs.

    • http://genderandresources.blogspot.com/ Geeta

      Hi Mercedes,

      I do frequently visit your blog. Its interesting for me to know about different gender facts and cultures posted in your blog.

      Getting something new on knowledge of gender progress is really good. I agree on views you highlighted on pros and cons perspectives of the Burkha wearing. Yes it is to be sure that women should be allowed to act as per should be allowed to speak their minds, lead their lives to the fullest and freely practice their faiths. But this things rarely happens if men do not want to accept it.
      I have found that women in many places lack conscientzation and accept it as their norms which they think that never can be changed.

      I had seen one of my friend from Bangladesh quite well educated lived her life as normal like us but later after her marriage she started to wear Burkha dress. I asked about this change and she replied my husband want me to do it. I was quite shocked since her husband was also quite well educated and working in the reputed international organisation. I was deeply sadened by the conservative thinking possesed by her husband and she was imposed to act as per his decisions. It is therefore necessary specially for men to take under gender mainstraming and trinings to have them better understand and realise importance about the gender stuffs

    • mercedes

      You are right. It is such a nuanced, complex issue, when and whether women act according to our own choice, or our choice is dictated by culture, religion, family, husbands…tricky issue. Thanks for sending your views.

    • Suad

      It is common in the Arab world for husbands to decide what their wives should or shouldn’t wear. It is unfortunate reality that has to be changed as the outfit of females should represent their personalities and lifestyles. Things could be improved when women challenge their husbands or male relatives by simply saying NO.

    • mercedes

      Hi. Suad Hamada, author of the posting, has replied to you, on the webpage, and here: It is common in the Arab world for husbands to decide what their wives should or shouldn’t wear. It is unfortunate reality that has to be changed as the outfit of females should represent their personalities and lifestyles. Things could be improved when women challenge their husbands or male relatives by simply saying NO.

    home | top