The cartoon that shows how ridiculous Saudi laws are for women

Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system remains the most significant impediment to women’s rights in the country

May Bulman
Monday 18 July 2016 12:10
Thousands of people share cartoon showing how ridiculous Saudi laws are for women

Thousands of people have circulated a short animation video designed to show the restrictions that Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system places on women.

The video, published on Facebook by Human Rights Watch, depicts a Saudi woman being forced to reconcile with her abusive husband.

The footage, captioned "Even when they abuse their wives, Saudi men still act as guardians over them #TogetherTo EndMaleGuardianship", has been shared more than 2,300 times and gained more 8,400 'likes' in 12 hours.

It shows the woman being beaten by her husband before he orders her to leave the home. She then goes to a shelter and is told the best thing she can do is reconcile with her husband.

It proceeds to show her husband signing a sheet of paper before pulling the crying woman out of the shelter and beating her in the home again.

The film follows a recent report by Human Rights Watch that finds 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 report, “Boxed In: Women and Saudi Arabia’s Male Guardianship System,” examines the many barriers women in the country face when attempting to make decisions or take action without the presence or consent of a male relative.

To produce the report Human Rights Watch conducted interviews with 61 Saudi women and men as well as analysing Saudi laws, policies and official documents.

As the law stands every Saudi woman must have a male guardian, normally a father or husband, but in some cases a brother or even a son, who has the power to make a range of critical decisions on her behalf.

Another video produced by Human Rights Watch following the report shows a female surgeon in Saudi Arabia receiving an invitation to speak at a cardiac surgery conference in London, but having to get the permission of her son to do so.

Her son declines to give her permission because he doesn't "feel like it".

A third shows a young woman being released from a female juvenile detention centre and hugging her mother, but having to return after her father refuses to grant permission for her release, saying: "She brought shame upon us. There's no way I can ler her come home."

In light of the report, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, said: “The fact that Saudi women are still forced to get a male guardian’s permission to travel, work, or do anything else is a long-standing rights violation and a barrier to the government’s plans to improve the economy.

“The government should do itself a favor and finally listen to the demands of half its population to be freed from the shackles of the guardianship system.”

One Saudi woman, 25, told Human Rights Watch: “We all have to live in the borders of the boxes our dads or husbands draw for us.”

Women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia have repeatedly called on the government to abolish the male guardianship system.

In 2009 and again in 2013, Saudi Arabia agreed to take some steps to decrease guardians’ control over women, including no longer requiring permission for women to work and passing a law criminalising domestic abuse.

But Human Rights Watch found that despite these limited reforms, the male guardianship system remains largely in place, hindering and in some cases nullifying the reforms.

Women may not apply for a passport without male guardian approval and require permission to travel outside the country and they regularly face difficulty conducting a range of transactions, such as renting an apartment to filing legal claims, without a male relative.

They cannot study abroad on a government scholarship without male guardian approval, and a male relative must accompany them abroad while they studies, though this requirement is not always enforced.

Women are also barred from driving, and the report found that they face tremendous obstacles when trying to seek help or flee abuse by violent guardians.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in