No escape

Video reveals the cruel reality of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system

A short animated video that criticizes Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system and calls for the end to the practice has gone viral on Facebook after being published by Human Rights Watch. The animation depicts a Saudi woman being beaten by her husband, seeking safety in a shelter, and being told by a shelter employee that she must reconcile with her husband. The shelter employee returns the wife to the husband, who signs a document pledging not to assault his wife again before dragging her back into the house. The footage ends with an image of the wife being held in the husband’s hand, alongside the caption: “Does it make sense to allow an abusive husband to act as guardian over his wife?”

The film, which is being circulated and discussed under the hashtag #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship, followed the publication of a Human Rights Watch report that concluded Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system was the greatest impediment to expanding women’s rights in the highly religious and conservative country. Women in Saudi Arabia are required to have male guardians who make critical decisions on their behalf — decisions such as filing legal claims, applying for a passport, or even renting an apartment. Despite Saudi Arabia passing reforms in 2009 and 2013 that decreased guardians’ control over women, including a law criminalizing domestic abuse, the Human Rights Watch report found that the continued existence of the guardianship system served to hinder and, in some cases, even nullify the reforms entirely.

Another video produced by Human Rights Watch depicted a female surgeon being unable to attend an international conference after her son declines to give her permission because he doesn’t “feel like it.” A third video showed a young woman being released from juvenile detention center by her mother, only to be forced to return after the father refuses to grant permission for her release. “She brought shame upon us,” says the father in the video. “There’s no way I can let her come home.”

Read the full story at The Independent.

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