Would Saudis Assurance on Male Guardianship Abuse Bring a Change?

The discriminatory male guardianship system has been Saudi Arabia’s identity from years. However, the ground reality of this practice came across last month, when an 18-year-old Saudi women focused worldwide attention on how it is being abused. On Monday, local media reported that Saudi will be addressing the issue.

According to Reuters, Saudi public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb said his office would “spare no efforts in protecting individuals, whether women, children or parents, from unfair treatment by those who abuse guardianship powers.”

Mojeb added that only a ‘small number of complaints’ about guardianship are received in his office. However, no further details were provided.

The 18-year-old, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, decided to defy her family and Saudi government. On January 5, she fled to Thailand from these laws and customs, which claim to ‘protect and safeguard women’ that she believes are immoral.

Women in Saudi Arabia need an approval from their male guardians to obtain a passport, travel abroad, marry and several such critical decisions. Activists say that the practice deprives women of social and economic freedom, turning them into second-class citizens. They argue that the system makes women more vulnerable to violence.

Al-Qunun stated that women in Saudi Arabia are “treated as an object, like a slave,” and that she was a victim too. She was locked up for months and subjected to physical and psychological abuse. As al-Qunun has abandoned Islam, her family had even threatened to kill her.

While Saudi Arabia is assuring to look into the matter and protect women from male guardianship abuse, activists have highlighted that several women in the country are even afraid of reporting it to the authorities. They say that it would further leave their lives in jeopardy.

Right groups have also voiced for an end to the system, which has been there in Saudi from the beginning. However, with time the rulers have altered it stringently, making life for women in the country more difficult.

Although the Kingdom has assured to protect women from male guardianship abuse, it seems to be another tall claim of the Kingdom. The Crown Prince has been initiating several reforms for protecting the rights of women lately, which have also remained dead letter according to several reports. Considering that, the claim by Saudi seems another reform brought to deceive the world.

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