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Thousands of Saudi women advocate for end of male guardianship laws

More than 14,000 Saudi women have signed a petition advocating for an end to their country’s male guardianship laws.

In Saudi Arabia, women are required to have male consent to travel outside the country. Without permission from a father, brother, son or male relative, women can not marry or obtain a passport. The same is true for receiving hospital care or owning property.

Although it is not required by law in the Gulf kingdom, workplaces often demand a male guardian to approve female employment.

In addition to the petition, according to one estimate, as many as 2,500 women delivered personal messages of support for the movement to King Salman’s office last weekend, reported the BBC.

Aziza al-Yousef, a prominent female activist who was famously stopped by police in 2013 for driving a car, delivered the petition in person to the Royal Court.

The Saudi government agreed in principle to abolish the male guardianship system both in 2009 and 2013 at the urging of the United Nations Human Rights Council, but only limited reforms followed.

In one of his most progressive moves, former King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the highest governing advising body in 2013, and women were allowed to vote and run for office in municipal council elections for the first time last year.

In April 2016, Saudi officials also announced Vision 2030, which affirms the government will “continue to develop talents, invest in [women’s] productive capabilities and enable them to strengthen their future.”

But for the thousands of women signing the petition, the time for change is now, not 15 years down the road.

Support for the women has grown into a global campaign that has taken the form of art, bracelets and video ads.

The movement first began picking up support in July, when the Human Rights Watch said Saudi women were being “controlled by a man from birth until death.” That same month, a hashtag that translates to “Saudi women want to abolish the guardianship system” went viral.

More recently, Saudi women have been using the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian.

The Saudi government has not provided any official response to the petition.