Women Behind The Wheel In Kabul
The Desk has been known to fly off the handle about the way women are treated in Afghanistan, so when I saw this story in The LA Times today I thought I should highlight this glacially paced advance for women here.
The piece is about how more women in Kabul are driving, with or without a license.
In the first six months of the fiscal year that began April 1, the number of driving permits issued to women in the Kabul area was up fourfold. That sounds great until you consider that officials issued just 180 licenses to women in the last 18 months, compared with 27,985 for men.
Men own the roads of Afghanistan, and many of them want it to stay that way. They say it is un-Islamic and culturally offensive for women to get behind the wheel.
[Afghan lady-driver Karimi] Yousafzai, who teaches the Koran for a living, disagrees. The holy book makes no mention of internal combustion engines, automatic transmissions or driving restrictions on women, she says.
“When men say women aren’t capable of driving, my response is, ‘I’ll challenge you any time,’ ” says Yousafzai, wearing a head scarf and dark glasses.
I’ve seen exactly one woman driving a car here in Kabul, so we shouldn’t get all giddy or anything, but just the fact that there is a school in Kabul that teaches women the rules of the road (so they can ignore them, just like all the male drivers) and how an engine works, is a cool thing.
But the most telling quote from the piece, that really says how far Afghanistan has yet to go in terms of female equality is this statement, by Yousafzai:
“Women here are defined by men. We don’t even know who we are sometimes because they make all the decisions for us.”
Until this changes, a few driver licenses don’t mean a damn.