A petition has been launched in Saudi Arabia calling on the government to treat women as full citizens by recognizing their complete rights and ending the controversial male guardianship system.
According to reports as of Tuesday almost 15,000 Saudis had signed the petition which is the first of its kind in the Kingdom.
Under Saudi law, women must have permission from a male family member to obtain a passport, marry, travel and sometimes to even work or access health care. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving.
Press TV reports:
Campaigner Aziza al-Yousef of Riyadh told AFP that the online petition calls for Saudi women to be treated “as a full citizen, and decide an age where she will be an adult and will be responsible for her own acts.”
Yousef further noted that she took the petition to the Royal Court in person on Monday, but was advised to send it by mail.
Nassima al-Sadah, an activist in Eastern Province, also expressed her dissatisfaction with the contentious system, saying, “We are suffering from this guardianship system.”
Back in July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a blistering report on the issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, which found that female citizens were treated as inferior to men.
“Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system remains the most significant impediment to women’s rights in the country despite limited reforms over the last decade,” the rights organization said.
In response to the HRW report, Saudi women began tweeting using the hashtag #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen.
HRW researcher, Kristine Beckerle, who worked on the report, described the response as “incredible and unprecedented.”
Saudi women have “made undeniably clear they won’t stand to be treated as second-class citizens any longer, and it’s high time their government listened,” she added.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. The ban stems from a religious fatwa imposed by Wahhabi clerics. If women get behind the wheel in the kingdom, they may be arrested, sent to court and even flogged.
In 2012, the then Saudi King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, announced that women would be given the right to vote and run in municipal elections for the first time in the country. He also appointed 30 women to the country’s top advisory Shura Council before his death in January 2015.