Women in Saudi Arabia demand end to ‘absolute’ male control
March 2, 2014
RIYADH // A group of Saudi women have petitioned the Shura Council to back a demand to curb the “absolute authority” of male guardians over women in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians.
It is also the only country that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.
Saudi women in a shopping mall in Riyadh. AFP.
Aziza Yousef, one of the women who signed the petition, said “rights activists have petitioned the Shura Council on the occasion of the International Women’s Day (on March 8) demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women”.
They demanded measures to protect women’s rights, she said.
Laws in the kingdom enforcing such restrictions on women “are not based on religious” teachings, said Ms Yousef.
The petition, signed by nine other women, also calls for allowing women to drive.
Women in Saudi must obtain permission from a male guardian to perform “certain surgeries” and to “leave the university campus during study hours,” she said.
She cited a recent case in which a pregnant student had to give birth on campus after a women-only university in Riyadh denied access to paramedics.
And a university student died last month after paramedics were prevented from entering her campus because they were not accompanied by a male guardian, a must according to the segregation rules in the kingdom.
This year, Saudi Arabia suspended a notification programme that had been running since 2012, which alerted male guardians once women under their custody left the country, even if they were travelling together.
Three female members of the Shura Council presented a recommendation that women be given the right to drive in October, but the male-dominated 150-member assembly blocked the proposal.
The Shura Council is appointed by the king and advises the monarch on policy, but cannot legislate.