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Women demand end to male guardianship

Last updated: Sunday, March 02, 2014 11:19 PM

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The system of male guardianship should end and the citizenship code amended so that Saudi women can grant citizenship to non-Saudi husbands and children, said a recent petition sent by 25 women activists to the Shoura Council on International Women’s Day (Mar. 8), Al-Hayat daily reported on Saturday.

In their letter, the activists, some of whom are university professors, called on the Council to take necessary measures to protect women’s rights and stop domestic violence against them.

Azizah Al-Yousif, one of the activists who signed the petition, said: “This petition renews our demands as women. We want our issues to be put on the top of the Council’s priority list.”

Thuraya Obaid and Lubna Al-Ansari, both Shoura Council members, promised to tackle most of the points raised in the petition, said Al-Yousif.

Women should no longer be obliged to get male guardian’s permission if they want to complete education, work, travel, file a lawsuit at the court, get medical treatment, apply for an ID or passport, get release from a rehabilitation center or a prison, the petition said.

Women and children who are victims of domestic violence should be protected by a special law that grants women the right to self-determination and stops them from being mistreated by men.

Examples of mistreatment include adhl (when a male guardian prevents a woman under his custody from getting married), marriages involving minors, divorce without compelling reasons, men abusing their power and control over women, discrimination against women and harassment at work and in public.

The activists also expressed frustration and regrets over the continuous social ban on women’s driving and demanded it be scrapped immediately.

They said women have the right to drive in order to meet their needs and take care of themselves and called on the authorities to provide safe and inexpensive means of transportation for those who cannot or do not drive.

Women should be granted the same rights pension regulations grant men, said the petition.

They should be treated equally and offered the same opportunities as men to hold high positions in the private and public sectors, the activists said.

Any civil organization dealing with women’s rights that wants to operate should be granted proper licenses immediately in order to start performing their duties.

A delay in tackling these issues, which affect the lives of millions of women, does not only exacerbate the current situation for women but also jeopardizes the lives of future generations, the petition warned.

Depriving the next generation of such basic rights results in more suffering and frustration that could easily be averted, it said.

Writing in Al-Riyadh Arabic daily, Haya Al-Manee said that a Saudi woman is considered a minor.

“Under the Kingdom’s law, a man is considered a minor only until the age of 18. But in a woman’s case, she’s always  treated as a minor in the legal point of view, irrespective of her age. A minor boy can become the guardian of a woman when he passes the age of 18!,” she wrote, and asked, “Is there any logic in treating women as minors throughout their entire lives? Is this acceptable in the Islamic Shariah?“

“In our society, a woman is treated a minor in every aspect, when she wants to get things done in the Civil Status Department or when she approaches the Passport Department to have a passport-related service. I don’t know when a Saudi woman would pass the phase of being a minor,” Al-Manee wrote.

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