Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Saudi Arabia relaxes archaic guardianship laws for women – Metro


Women in Saudi Arabia will be able to travel and study without needing a man's permission
Women have protested male guardianship with the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian (Picture: Ms Saffaa/Twitter)

Women in Saudi Arabia are to get more basic freedoms as the king relaxes the country’s controversial guardianship laws.

The KSA continues to be one of the world’s most gender-segregated nations.

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At present women must live under the supervision of a male guardian, requiring his permission to do things like travel, access education, see doctors, get married or make police complaints.

However, King Salman has just issued an order allowing women to benefit from government services such as education and healthcare without needing their male guardian’s consent.

Although this isn’t an end to the guardianship system altogether, it is a major first step towards emancipation for women in the country.

Saudi women vote at a polling center during the municipal elections, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Women across Saudi Arabia marked a historic milestone on Saturday, both voting and running as candidates in government elections for the first time, but just outside polling stations they waited for male drivers ó a reminder of the limitations still firmly in place. (AP Photo/Aya Batrawy)
Saudi women voting for the first time in municipal elections in December 2015 (Picture: AP Photo/Aya Batrawy)
Women in Saudi Arabia will be able to travel and study without needing a man's permission
Activist Aziza Al-Yousef was arrested for driving in 2013 (Picture: Getty Images)

According to Maha Akeel, a women’s rights campaigner and director of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, this could mean women are able to study, access hospital treatments, work in the public and private sector, and even represent themselves in court without needing the consent of their guardian.

‘Now at least it opens the door for discussion on the guardian system,’ he added.

‘Women are independent and can take care of themselves.’

Women in Saudi Arabia will be able to travel and study without needing a man's permission
Saudi King Salman passed the order relaxing the rules (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

This comes after years of protests from feminists in Saudi Arabia who have fought for an end to the archaic practice.

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In September last year, around 2,500 women in the KSA directly bombarded the King’s office to demand an end to guardianship.

At least 14,000 others signed a petition calling for an end to the highly restrictive law, and an online movement grew under the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian.

The groundbreaking petition was started and then hand-delivered by activist Aziza Al-Yousef, who was arrested in 2013 for deliberately breaking the country’s ban on women driving.

In December 2015, Saudi women were allowed to vote in municipal elections for the first time.



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