Saudi cleric claims driving risks 'damaging women's ovaries'

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Saudi cleric claims driving risks 'damaging women's ovaries'

Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan spoke out against women getting behind the wheel recently, claiming that the act of making 'unnecessary' trips in the car can actually have a physiological effect on a woman's ovaries.

The comment came after activists in Saudi Arabia stepped up their campaign for women to be allowed to drive as a current informal ban sees Saudi police issuing fines and even arresting female motorists.

Although there is no distinct law that says females cannot operate a car, only men are allowed to acquire driving licenses and many inhabitants feel that giving women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia offends the country's traditional code.

Sheikh Lohaidan told the news website Sabq.org, "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.

"That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees."

The medically misjudged comments understandably angered campaigners who are calling for women to stand up for their rights and deliberately defy the ban on October 26.

A Twitter campaign has attracted more than 11,000 signatures and is the latest in a series of campaigns over the past two decades for women to be allowed to sit behind the wheel.

Despite the public outcry, Sheikh Lohaidan is reported to be opposed to reform more generally and granting women more rights in the kingdom.