Work, travel, study, marry and even receive health care, are the situations in which Saudi women have to obtain permission from male relatives. The Human Rights Watch said that men keep Saudi women in perpetual childhood in order to be able to exercise “guardianship”.
The New York based-group says that Saudi women access to justice is also severely constrained. The Saudi establishment sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women.
Saudi Arabia remains the only country worldwide that doesn’t allow women to drive. To Saudi clerics, the guardianship of women’s honour is a key to the country’s social and moral order.
The report, entitled Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia, goes through more than 100 interviews with Saudi women.
“Saudi women won’t make any progress until the government ends the abuses that stem from these misguided policies”, said Farida Deif, women’s rights researcher for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch.
Unequal academic opportunities
According to the report, Saudi women are even denied the legal right to make trial decisions for their children. Women can’t open bank accounts for children, enrol them in school, obtain school files or travel with their children, without written permission from the child’s father.
Saudi women are prevented from accessing government agencies that have no established female sections, unless they have a male representative.
Female students are often relegated to unequal facilities, with unequal academic opportunities, and the fact that women need to work in office spaces separated from men, often is a disincentive to hiring female employees, says the report.
Because victims of violence find it difficult to seek protection or redress from the courts, male guardianship over adult women also contributes to their risk of exposure to violence within the family.
The group says that according to social workers, physicians and lawyers, it is nearly impossible to remove guardianship from male guardians who are abusive.
“It’s astonishing that the Saudi government denies adult women the right to make decisions for themselves but holds them criminally responsible for their actions at puberty” said Farida Deif.
“For Saudi women, reaching adulthood brings no rights, only responsibilities.”