“Slavery comes in many shapes and forms: Male guardianship is one.” – #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen. Some Saudi women tweeted this hashtag , after Human Rights Watch published a report on the issue of women’s rights Saudi Arabia.
Imagine having to get the permission of another person every time you wanted to do something or go somewhere.
This permission would be required for everything; from everyday tasks like going to the shop to serious life changing decisions like getting married.
You couldn’t drive anywhere on your own and forget about leaving the country or getting a job without this person’s permission.
Wouldn’t that be slavery?
Well, women in Saudi Arabia are living this life. Every. Single. Day.
As Human Rights Watch explains, adult Saudi women must receive the permission of a male relative – usually a father, brother, husband or even son – to travel, marry or exit prison.
And a woman might be required to provide the consent of a male relative to rent an apartment, file legal claims, enter school, work or access health care to boot!
But some of the women are standing in solidarity against this system.
The BBC and other news media are reporting that 14,000 Saudi women have signed an online petition for the government to end the country’s male guardianship system.
The Telegraph newspaper says this move is the first of its kind in the “ultra-conservative Islamic country.”
Two days before the petition, hundreds of women went as far as to send direct telegrams to the Saudi King’s office expressing support for the campaign.
Prominent activist Aziza Al-Yousef tells the BBC, “They’ve made undeniably clear they won’t stand to be treated as second-class citizens any longer, and its high time their government listened.”
The government has yet to answer the petition.
A word or two to the Saudi men
An ‘adult’ generally refers to someone who is legally old enough to make his or her own decisions.
But by that definition, Saudi women are no more than children since the implicit message sent by male guardianship is that women can’t look after themselves.
This system says men inherently know best. Why? Because they’re men. Yet, I can easily see how men could abuse the system.
A son can use it as leverage over his widowed mother to get out of something. Imagine your teenage son telling you he is not washing the dishes and if you object, no passport. That flips the power dynamics of a child-parent relationship on its head.
Hypothetically, one man would have the power to decide whether or not I get healthcare after beating me. Who would I run to? Certainly, not law enforcement which would be male dominated.
Women think too. Women feel too.
It’s about time the women stood up for their rights. Gone are the days when you must depend on somebody else to save you.
Sometimes, you have to emancipate yourself.
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