Saudi Women Want an End to the Male Guardianship System

Saudi Women Want an End to the Male Guardianship System

Women in Saudi Arabia are standing up for their rights. Something that is very difficult to do in an Islamic country where women aren’t even allowed to drive. But they are using the internet and putting together online communication resources to organize. Saudi women are hoping to put some of their own issues on the agenda.

So they have put together a petition that will be handed to the government of the country. 14,000 Saudi women signed the petition that calls for an end to the system of male guardianship.

The Male Guardianship System

The male guardianship system is what defines the status of Saudi women in Saudi Arabian society. Women’s place and role in society is in a way guaranteed by this system.

Women in Saudi Arabia need the permission of a male guardian for many things. They must have consent from a male guardian to travel abroad. Also, they often have to have permission if they want to work or if they want to study.

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic kingdom and it is a very conservative country. According to the male guardianship system, many of the individual freedoms and liberties of Saudi women depend on a male person. The person can be her father or her brother. If that is not possible, it has to be another male relative. In the situation of a widow, sometimes her son acts as the male guardian.

Having a male guardian is mandatory. It is necessary for bureaucratic endeavors such as obtaining a passport. It is also necessary for major decisions, such as marriage or leaving the country. A Saudi woman can’t do any of these things without the permission of the male guardian.

Sometimes even when it isn’t legally required, Saudi women have to provide consent from their male guardian. Many universities require permission from a male guardian from their female students. Also, most workplaces ask for a male guardian’s consent before they allow a female employee to work there.

Everyday things such as renting a flat or filing for a legal claim also can’t be done without the permission of a male guardian. In situations where the male guardian limits the freedom of a woman, there is very little that she can do to complain.

The Campaign to Put an End to the System

This is the first campaign that is large-scale regarding the issue of male guardianship. Support of the campaign grew online. There was a hashtag trending on Twitter and online communication helped spread the word. Activists say they are “very proud” of the effort. They also say that what should now happen is a response.

In July, Human Rights Watch published a report on the issue of male guardianship. After that a hashtag on Twitter went viral. The translation from Arabic would be that “Saudi women want to abolish the guardianship system”. Activists tweeted their own comments and contributed videos and artwork. Some Saudi women started wearing bracelets that said “I Am My Own Guardian”.

Hundreds of women sent telegrams to the office of the Saudi King with personal messages in support of the campaign.


Image source: here.