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    Saudi Women File Historic Petition to Abolish Male Guardianship

    © AFP 2019 / FAYEZ NURELDINE
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    More than 14,000 Saudi women signed a petition to the kingdom's Royal Court in an effort to end the internationally criticized system.

    Human Rights Watch reported Saturday that women's rights activists in the kingdom initiated a Twitter campaign to support the move, trending such hashtags as #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen, #IAmMyOwnGuardian and #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship. Additionally, activists used social media to spread instructions on how to submit a telegram calling on the king to comply with their demands.

    The petition says that Saudi women, who are being treated as legal minors based on an interpretation of the Quran, must have the right to move freely around the country and abroad, as well as make important decisions regarding their own lives, without asking a man's permission.   

    "In every aspect, the important issue is to treat a woman as a full citizen," Saudi human rights campaigner Aziza Yousef told BBC.

    Currently, women in Saudi Arabia are required to obtain approval from a male relative to make decisions regarding such daily social issues as medical treatment and employment. Before marriage it is usually a woman's father who exerts control. After the ceremony is completed responsibility is administered by the husband.

    Such restrictions "impose physical and emotional burdens" on women, the petition reads. Those who signed demand the designation of a threshold age of 18-21, above which women are legally full-fledged adult citizens free to travel, study or work, without requiring the permission of a male guardian.

    Sheik Abdulaziz al-Sheik condemned the request, calling the Twitter campaign anti-Islamic, and declaring that such actions threaten the wellbeing of Saudi society.

    "This is an evil call that goes against the sharia and the instructions of the prophet," he blustered, cited by Middle East Eye.

    Though Saudi UN representatives have pledged to the UN Human Rights Commission that the system will be dismantled, nothing has been done.

    ​The unprecedented petition is the result of a social media campaign which began after Human Rights Watch published a report in July condemning the male guardianship system as a violation of human rights. No response to the petition has been recorded.

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    petition, women's rights, islam, Saudi Arabia
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