Minister calls women-only driving school 'a joke'

Samira Masrour had a straightforward idea to start her own business: an all-female driving school for women who don't feel at ease with a male instructor. But her initiative angered many Belgian politicians.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Minister calls women-only driving school 'a joke' - NewsMavens
Woman smiles while driving, Wikimedia Commons.

Why this story matters:

Masrour already operates a women-only driving school in Rotterdam, and she wanted to open a similar school in Antwerp, Belgium.

However, Ben Weyts, Minister of Mobility, has declared that he will not grant the school a license. He reacted with a strongly worded statement:

"This must be a late April Fools' joke. It's ridiculous. [...] What makes me uncomfortable is the reason behind this initiative. I suspect it is based on certain beliefs that require that men and women be separated. I will never allow such a school!"

Sabina Masrour, on the other hand, says her motivations are not religious, but business-oriented: 

"It definitely doesn't have anything to do with religion or culture. We are doing it simply because we see that there is a lot of demand for it."

What is remarkable in this controversy is the total absence of dialogue. Why not talk to each other instead of making statements in an echo chamber? Only then could there be a constructive discussion on whether or not an all-female driving school substiantially violates equal gender rights.

women's issues, politics

Details from the story:

  • Belgium's first ever women-only driving school was to open in the Antwerp suburb of Merksem. The school wants to hire female driving instructors only.
  • "We carried out market research in Belgium. Women said they didn't feel at ease with a male instructor. They become uncertain and shy. They do better if they are with another woman", says Samira Masrour, the woman behind the initiative.
  • Masrour and her sister already run a women-only driving school in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. They believe the school is not discriminatory.
  • In Belgium, the federal ombudsman wants to investigate the dossier.
  • The outcry against the school is linked to another issue: a small local Islamic party recently made a declaration stating that men and women should take separate buses. Belgian politicans across the spectrum declared the initiative 'disgusting'.
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