Saudi court jails man for supporting women activists
Earlier this year, Saudi women began been tweeting hundreds of thousands of messages denouncing the practice of male guardianship.
Guardianship grants full legal control of almost all of a woman’s lifestyle decisions to her closest legal male guardian, whether it’s her father, her husband or, in some cases, her son. This legal status lasts the woman’s whole life.
Saudi women, bloggers and activists have been using the hashtags #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship and #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen to call for reform and to speak about how the practice has affected their lives – from barring them from work or studying to generally depriving them of freedoms men enjoy without hindrance.
The campaign was also propelled by the American NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), which used the hashtag #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship to promote a recently published report denouncing the practice.
HRW’s report came with a series of animated videos telling the stories of women whose guardians had abused their already extensive authority.
The report also described the practice of male guardianship as:
The most significant impediment to realiaing women’s rights in the country, effectively rendering adult women legal minors who cannot make key decisions for themselves.
It’s now been reported that a Saudi man who supported the women has been jailed for one year.
The unnamed man was also fined 30,000 riyals ($8,000) by a court in the eastern city of Dammam, for “inciting to end guardianship of women” in statements he posted on Twitter and in public posters.
He was arrested while putting up posters in mosques in al Hasa district calling for an end to the globally unique system that subjects women in the ultra-conservative kingdom to male control. During questioning, police found out that the man was also behind a wide online campaign to end the guardianship.
The defendant admitted pinning up the posters in several mosques, saying he solely launched an “awareness campaign” after finding that:
Some female relatives were facing injustice at the hands of their families.
Under the guardianship system a male family member, normally the father, husband or brother, must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities. Activists say that even female prisoners have to be received by the guardian upon their release, meaning that some have to languish in jail or a shelter beyond their sentences if the man does not want to accept them.
The womens’ campaign angered religious officials. The country’s most prominent religious figure, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh said that any call to abolish male guardianship constituted a “crime” against Sunni Islam.