Saudi petition seeks end to male guardianship of women

By Hürriyet Daily News

REU Photo

The petition calls for the kingdom’s women to “be treated as a full citizen, and decide an age where she will be an adult and will be responsible for her own acts,” said campaigner Aziza Al-Yousef.

The retired university professor told AFP that she had tried unsuccessfully to deliver the petition with 14,700 names to the Royal Court on Sept. 26.

The activists will now send it by mail as requested.

“This is not only a women’s issue, this is also putting pressure on normal men… this is not an issue for women only,” the Guardian quoted Al-Yosef as saying on its website.

Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, and is the only country where they are not allowed to drive.

Under Saudi law, women require the permission of a male guardian to travel, marry, or exit prison and it may be needed to be granted employment or access to healthcare.

A guardian is typically a woman’s father or her husband if she is married; a widow may have to seek permission from her son if she has no other men of age in her life.

But in recent years, a growing protest movement has sought to end the system. Yousef and other prominent activists started holding workshops and performing studies on the religious validity of the guardianship system five years ago. The campaign picked up steam this summer after Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a blistering report on the system.

The report gave birth to a hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian, which spread awareness on the issue.