Women drivers in Yemen: rare customers
Sadam Al-Harasi, 30, the owner of Al-Rabat Car Gallery on Al-Rabat Street in Sana'a, told the Yemen Times that there are very few female car customers. Al-Harasi indicated that on average, women buy only one car a month, and sometimes there are no female buyers.
Ali Ahmed Al-Jadabi, the proprietor of Al-Kheir Cars Gallery in Ma'een district in Sana'a, said it is very rare to sell cars to female clients. However, he confirmed that the percentage of women buying cars has gone up compared to previous years. “In past decades, there were no women driving in Yemen. Yet nowadays there are many. As a result, we see that the number of women buying cars has increased too,’’ Al-Jadabi said.
He added, “The woman who happens to purchase a car is often rich and old, or holds an important social position, such as a university professor.”
Unlike the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, a woman's right to drive is upheld by law. Moreover, Saudi Arabian women are not permitted to purchase a car. In Yemen, the responsibility of choosing a car usually lies with the man. This is due to the conservative nature of the society.
In Islamic tradition, a man is generally in charge of the family. His decisions are obeyed provided that these decisions are not negative or destructive.
Nabeel Muthna, the owner of Al-Muthna Gallery, also in Ma'een district, confirmed that the choice of what car to buy is a decision left to males. ‘’Only a few families allow their female members to buy the cars that appeal to them, or well-off old widows are able to purchase the vehicles they desire,’’ said Muthna.
For his part, Waleed Al-Harasi, who owns Al-Wadhah Gallery in Sana'a, indicated that some people feel that it's disgraceful and indecent to permit their wives or daughters to go haggling over cars with a car dealer. He proceeded by saying, ‘’Yemen is a conservative community, and thus it's not odd that my customers are all men.”
Women in Yemen differ on whether it is acceptable or not to be involved in choosing what car to buy.
Amani Mohammed, an English teacher in Sana'a, said that it would be unacceptable if she interfered in what car her husband decides to buy.
“Choosing a car is outright man's business, especially in Yemeni society. For me, I completely consented to my husband's first choice of a car,” said Mohammed.
She added that, “I could consult with him [her husband], but it would not be fit to impose my own decision.”
Abtisam Murad, 35, woman from Sana'a, claimed that a woman is able to influence the man's decision. She remembered that when her spouse bought his car, it did not appeal to her. Though she could have cajoled him into selling it in order to get another one, she remained silent.
“I could have rejected his choice of car. However, I refrained from opposing his will as a token of respect,” Murad said.
Um Nasr, 40, also in Sana'a, pointed out that if a woman interferes in choosing a car it indicates a weak character on the part of her husband. She continued that, “The man is the most powerful member in the family. Thus, the decision regarding the choice of car lies with him.”
For her part, Sara Abdulkareem, a government employee, confessed that she convinced her spouse to take the car that she wanted. “I had the right to turn down his choice. We [spouses] are interdependent. Therefore, he must listen to me and I to him,” Abdulkareem said.
She concluded, “It would be repressive to unwillingly accept his choice of a car."