Females in Saudi Arabia may have won the right to vote last year, but there are still plenty of freedoms not yet afforded to the women of the country.
However ladies are taking matters into their own hands, and have put together the first-ever petition asking the government to abolish the country’s controversial male guardianship law.
Currently, a woman must be accompanied by a male relative – typically her husband, father or brother – when leaving the house, even when running simple errands.
She also needs permission from a man to marry, travel abroad, rent a property, and obtain a passport.
More than 14,500 people signed the unprecedented petition, which will now be put before the Saudi government.
Women Finally Get Rights In Saudi Arabia
Dubai’s Renamed A Major Street In Honour Of Saudi’s King
This Saudi Teen Is Campaigning To Introduce A Hijab Emoji
Saudi Princess To Head Up Country’s Sports Authority For Women
Royal Brunei Airlines’ First All-Female Flight Deck Lands In Saudi
Support for the campaign increased dramatically thanks to the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian gaining traction on social media, while an estimated 2,500 women also sent personal messages to the Saudi King’s office this week in support of the petition.
“Women should be treated as a full citizen,” activist Aziza Al Yousuf, who delivered the petition to the Royal Court on Monday, 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.”
Many Saudi workplaces, universities and hospitals also demand a male guardian’s consent, 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.
Al Yousuf said she first raised the issue of male guardianship around five years ago, along with fellow activists.
“We never had a problem with campaigning, but the problem is there is no answer. But we always hope – without hope, you cannot work,” she told the BBC.
However after the Human Rights Watch published a report in July, stating that Saudi women were treated as inferior to men, the idea for a petition gathered steam.
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.