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

Diversity and confidence: Because all women are worth it
Jan 21

Diversity and confidence: Because all women are worth it

Diversity and inclusion have been a hot-button topic lately, and diversity in the advertising world is no exception. For every feel-good advertisement, there seems to be another that completely misses the mark (think the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, or H&M’s “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”...

Read More
Times up in Hollywood
Jan 14

Times up in Hollywood

The Golden Globes, the first major entertainment awards show of the season, stole the spotlight last week. Watching the ceremony, the unsuspecting viewer might have thought that the women of Hollywood were in mourning, with most attendees choosing black dresses over colorful looks. In some ways, the women were marking...

Read More
Proof and Accountability
Jan 07

Proof and Accountability

For women in 2018, it’s going to be all about proof and accountability. Equality for women is not just a slogan or vague concept but a goal, which means that it must be translated into concrete action. Politicians can easily say that they want to promote women, and may put forth a strategic plan or agenda....

Read More
2017 The Year of Women
Dec 31

2017 The Year of Women

2017 was indisputably the year of women. Whether it was women’s achievements or tragedies, female strength was on full display through the highs and lows. Women broke boundaries and records, made a difference and pursued their dreams. Women spoke up and spoke out. Women challenged society to wake up and change....

Read More
On blaming women
Dec 24

On blaming women

It seems that women are always being blamed for the actions of men. Women are constantly blamed for the sexual harassment and assault they face. Women are blamed for their husband’s abusive behavior; they are also, sometimes, blamed for their husband’s failures or the breakup of a relationship (the...

Read More
Feminism: Misunderstood
Dec 17

Feminism: Misunderstood

When Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced that the Word of the Year for 2017 was feminism, it was hardly surprising. Women were everywhere this year: their achievements and the issues they face were the topic of many a news article, so it is unsurprising that feminism was one of the most searched words online. Yet...

Read More