It’s a controversial law that thousands of women in Saudi Arabia have petitioned to abolish.
And now one protestor of the kingdom’s male guardianship law – which prohibits freedoms for females – has been jailed.
The Saudi man has been sentenced to one year in prison, and fined Dhs29,400, after “inciting to end guardianship of women”, local daily newspaper Okaz reports.
Under the law, a woman requires the permission of a man – typically her husband, father or brother – to marry, travel abroad, rent a property, and obtain a passport.
Many Saudi workplaces, universities and hospitals also demand a male guardian’s consent to access services or gain employment, though it is not legally required, and women still aren’t allowed to drive a car alone, try on clothes while shopping, or compete freely in sports.
The unnamed man was convicted by a Dammam court of opposing the law through posts on Twitter and by displaying public posters, The Telegraph reported.
He was arrested while putting up posters in a mosque that called for an end to the controlling rule, and told police he launched the campaign after discovering “female relatives were facing injustice at the hands of their families”.
Earlier this year, nearly 15,000 women signed a landmark petition asking the government to do away with the guardianship law.
“Women should be treated as a full citizen,” activist Aziza Al Yousuf, who delivered the petition to the Royal Court, told The Guardian.
“This is not only a women’s issue, this is also putting pressure on normal men … this is not an issue for women only.”
Saudi’s government has already twice agreed to revise the guardianship system – in 2009 and 2013 – however officials only loosened certain regulations.
Changes included making it easier for women to work and appointing women to the King’s advisory board.
Saudi is making roads in relaxing laws
As part of the country’s Vision 2030 – the kingdom’s post-oil economy plans – Saudi and its monarchy are said to be changing restrictions on social policies.
A ban on women voting or taking part in elections was lifted in 2015, and in April this year the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the third in line to the throne – has also hinted that the government may lift the women’s driving ban.
The hope is to make the region a more modern, tourist-friendly destination, with an aim to attract 1.5 million tourists by 2020, and to boost the kingdom’s hospitality industry by more than half.