To be her own guardian
07-May-2017


Saudi Arabia ‘s election to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women a few weeks ago caused quite a stir. The international community questioned how a country that is widely believed to treat its women as second-class citizens could be elected to a commission that has gender equality at its very heart. As if to prove its worthiness of the nomination and it commitment to gender equality, Saudi Arabia has just announced a royal decree that women will no longer need a male guardian’s consent to receive state services.

Under male guardianship, women need the consent of a man—a husband, father, brother, cousin, even son—to marry, obtain a passport or rent a flat, amongst other things.  There are some women who do not want guardianship to end, or who want it modified. But for women whose guardians choose to misuse the system, and especially those who are trapped in abusive relationships, the system is quite hindering. They cannot file a claim with police or get hospital treatment without the permission of their guardian, who may be their abuser. Last month a Saudi woman was turned around in the Philippines because she did not have her guardian’s permission to travel; she was allegedly trying to escape abuse.

The new decree is a welcome step forward for Saudi’s women, who in September organized a petition calling for an end to the guardianship system that garnered more than 14,000 signatures. Under the new decree, women do not need their male guardian’s permission to request services “unless there is a legal basis for this request in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah,”—a stipulation which could be used to favor male guardians. The government has yet to announce which state services will be exempt from permission.

Nevertheless, the Saudi government seems firmly committed to implementing the new changes. King Salman has demanded governmental organizations to identify all requirements that include the guardian’s approval for a service; he has also demanded the lifting of the male guardianship within three months and for government offices to display the order on their websites. Educating the public on the new changes will indeed be critical: although women are not required to obtain permission to work or attend university, for example, many workplaces and universities still demand permission.

Saudi women are mothers, wives, teachers, CEOs and even politicians. They are intelligent, successful, capable women. If they wish to make decisions themselves, then they deserve the opportunity to be their own guardian.


Related Articles

Snapchat and joking about DV
Mar 25

Snapchat and joking about DV

The advertisement was eye-catching—and disgraceful. The “Would You Rather” game ad, which appeared on social media app Snapchat, asked users if they would rather “slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown.” Rihanna immediately deleted her own Snapchat account and called out the company, and it...

Read More
#AskMore— Of Everyone
Mar 18

#AskMore— Of Everyone

  What are you wearing? Who’s your date? How does your husband feel about your success? How do you balance work and motherhood? All too often, an accomplished woman is interviewed and,  rather than focus on her success, the interview quickly deviates into banal sexism. #AskHerMore aims to change...

Read More
Meaningful Gestures on IWD 2018
Mar 11

Meaningful Gestures on IWD 2018

On March 8th, British popstar Rita Ora, performing at Bahrain Bay, asked the crowd to “do something special for her.” Handing her phone over to a band member, she yelled into her microphone “Happy International Women’s Day!” and the crowd cheered behind her.  Rita Ora’s simple...

Read More
Abayas and Opportunities in line with Saudi Vision 2030
Feb 19

Abayas and Opportunities in line with Saudi Vision 2030

Are abayas on the way out in Saudi Arabia? Last week Sheikh Abduallah Al Mutlaq, a member of the country’s Council of Senior Scholars, said on his radio program that that dressing modestly did not necessitate wearing the abaya, or traditional full-length robe. His comments stirred backlash online, with some...

Read More
Chips and Gender Stereotypes
Feb 11

Chips and Gender Stereotypes

Are women embarrassed to eat chips in public? Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, seems to think so: in a recent interview she claimed that women do not like to crunch loudly or lick their fingers when eating chips in front of other people. To solve these issues, Nooyi announced a new line of “low crunch”...

Read More
Art and the Female Subject
Feb 04

Art and the Female Subject

Passive objects or women in charge? The Manchester Art Gallery in the United Kingdom has removed the famous painting “Hylas and the Nymphs” by J.W. Waterhouse as it rethinks the representation of women in art.  The painting’s removal, which was meant to encourage debate” about how such...

Read More