Uber Makes History With a Country That Doesn't Let Women Drive

June 2nd 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Uber is now business partners with a country that won't let women drive. Although, it's illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, Uber is willing to drive for them.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the investment fund of the government, made a $3.5 billion investment in Uber, the largest single investment in a private company ever made, according to CNBC.

Also, Yasir Al Rumayyan, a director from Saudi Arabia's investment fund, will now sit on Uber's board. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, said in a statement to The New York Times that Uber wants to grow with the "social reforms" happening in the country.

“Our experience in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how Uber can benefit riders, drivers and cities and we look forward to partnering to support their economic and social reforms," Kalanick said.

The social reforms Kalanick alluded to probably included the ability for Saudi women to get around more easily with Uber. About 70 to 90 percent of Uber riders in Saudi Arabia are women, according to Fast Company. There is also a historic gathering planned by a Saudi princess for 10,000 women in December aimed at breast cancer education and prevention. Uber is one of the event's sponsors.

However some people on social media questioned Uber's decision to profit from a government that discriminates against women. Along with banning driving, Saudi Arabia won't let women go out in public without a male chaperone, have too many interactions with men they aren't related to, or go swimming, according to The Week.

In the past, women who broke the driving ban were stopped, questioned by police, and then let go. However in 2011, after a pushback from women's rights groups about the driving ban, a woman was sentenced to 10 lashes with a whip for defying the ban, according to The Guardian. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that makes it illegal for all women to drive.

ATTN: reached out to Uber for comment but has yet to hear back.

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