Saudi Women Ask King to Bring an End to Male Guardianship

WSJ: Saudis sent telegrams to the king on Sunday pressing the monarchy to end male guardianship rules for women, the culmination of an unprecedented months long effort to abolish the system.

By Sunday evening, activists estimated hundreds of people had sent a copy of the same message to the royal court asking King Salman to cancel regulations that give men the final say on many important decisions in the lives of female relatives.

It is a change women’s rights activists in the ultraconservative kingdom have long campaigned for. The telegrams are one of several grass roots initiatives that have sprung up since July, when an Arabic hashtag that translated to “Saudi women want to abolish the guardianship system” first went viral on Twitter in the oil-rich Gulf nation.

Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving has been criticized world-wide. But many women see male guardianship as a bigger barrier to exercising full citizenship rights. Legally, Saudi women need permission from a male guardian—typically a father, husband or son—to marry, travel outside the kingdom or study abroad, among other things.

Saudi Arabia twice told the United Nations it would abolish the guardianship system, most recently in 2013, according to Human Rights Watch.

Saudi officials Sunday didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Saudi Arabia’s monarchy has long resisted pressure to lift the restrictions because of the influence of a powerful religious establishment and the deeply conservative culture.

Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, recently said calls to repeal the guardianship system are “a crime against the religion of Islam” and posed “an existential threat to Saudi society.”


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