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in brief: saudi women activists demand end to absolute male authority

Image: Carlos Latuff

Image: Carlos Latuff

Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic Law, particularly concerning women citizens and their rights. This law forbids women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians. It is also the only country in the world which bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian. But now, Saudi women are demanding the end of this male control.

Saudi women activists have petitioned the country’s consultative council to back a demand to curb the ‘absolute authority’ of male guardians over women in the kingdom, a signatory has said.

Activist Aziza Yousef told AFP news agency on Sunday that ‘rights activists have petitioned the Shura (consultative) Council on the occasion of the International Women’s Day [March 8] demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women.’ They demanded ‘measures to protect [women’s] rights’ in their petition to the Shura Council.

These Laws that are being imposed upon women in the Kingdom ‘are not based on religious’ teaching, said Yousef.

The petition has been signed by ten activists, and also calls for the right to allow women to drive.

Three female members of the Shura Council presented a recommendation that women be allowed to drive in October, but the male-dominated assembly 150-member blocked the proposal.

Yousef also added that women in Saudi Arabia must obtain permission from a male guardian to ‘perform certain surgeries’ and to ‘leave the university campus during study hours.’ She cited a recent case in which a pregnant student had to give birth on campus after a women-only university in Riyadh denied her access to paramedics. Another university student died in February after paramedics were prevented from entering her campus because they were not accompanied by a male guardian, a must according to strict segregation laws.

The Shura Council is appointed by the king and advises the monarch on policy, but cannot legislate. 

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