Advocate Groups Welcome Relaxing of Saudi Male Guardianship Rule

The King of Saudi Arabia has reportedly issued a new order that allows women to benefit from some government services without consent of a male guardian.

The new move by the kingdom to allow women additional control of their life choices by relaxing its controversial system of male guardianship was welcomed tentatively as one more small step for Saudi women.

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the world’s most gender segregated countries in the world, where women are constantly being supervised by a guardian, who is male, are not allowed to drive and while in public have to wear black garments from that cover their entire body less the eyes and hands.

Women have to receive approval from a male to study, travel and even receive certain health treatments.

However, last week local media reported that the Saudi King issued a new order that allows women to benefit from services offered by the government like healthcare and education, without receiving their male guardian’s consent.

That means women in certain circumstances could study as well as access treatment at hospitals, work in the private and public sector and represent themselves at court without their male guardian’s consent, said a campaigner of women’s rights in the region.

This arrives as the most recent in a number of moves in the Gulf Coast kingdom to include women in the workforce more as Saudi Arabia diversifies its economy to cut its reliance on oil revenues.

The trend began during 2011. Late King Abdullah first allowed women to be a part of Shura Council a government advisory group. Women can vote now in all municipal elections, work some hospitality and retail jobs and since 2012 compete in the Olympic Games.

However, out of 114 nations in the Global Gender Gap, a study done by the World Economic Forum, Saudi Arabia is 141 related to how women fare in political and economic participation, education and health.

The male guardianship system, which requires that women obtain their guardian’s permission to study, travel or marry, is a big impediment to realizing women’s rights, rights groups have said for years.

One advocate for women’s rights said male guardianship is humiliating and un-Islamic for women. Some men also take advantage of being a male guardian for the benefit of themselves and abuse the situation.

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