An online petition calling for the Saudi Arabian government to end the country’s oppressive guardianship system has drawn thousands of signatures, The Guardian reports. Under Saudi law, women must obtain the permission of a male relative before traveling, marrying, leaving prison, and, in some cases, accepting employment and accessing healthcare.
Thus far, some 14,700 people have signed the petition. There has been increasing resistance to the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia over the past few years, and the movement was galvanized this summer, when Human Rights Watch released a damning report on the institution.
According to activist Aziza Al-Yousef, a number of clerics have lent their support to the petition, suggesting that they do not believe the guardianship system is rooted in Islamic law. “They all declared that this is not religion, this is all government rules and it should be changed,” Yousef said.
Hamid M. Khan, deputy director of The Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina, told The Guardian that Saudi Arabia’s royal family is also receptive to reform. Earlier this year, the Saudi government released a plan to reduce the country’s dependency on oil by 2030, which would in turn require more women to enter the workforce. The guardianship system, which restricts women’s ability to work, is counterproductive to that goal.
Khan added, however, that the royal family cannot act without approval from senior clerics, who tend to be resistant to change.
Read the full story at The Guardian.