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Saudi group supports male guardianship law
Published in Bikya Masr on 03 - 10 - 2009

CAIRO: Self-proscribed Saudi women's activists have launched a campaign in support of the Kingdom's male guardianship system, striking controversy among other women who feel the law is archaic and demeaning. The so-called activists have started a campaign, titled “My Guardian Knows the Best for me” and have written to King Abdullah throwing their complete support behind Riyadh's continued use of the program administered by the government.
The campaign has arisen out of opposition calls by activists to abandon the system where women are required to have a male guardian with them at all times in public, whether this be shopping, going to the hairdresser or other public endeavors. Many women in Saudi have demanded the government ease their ability to move freely in their own nation.
In a statement published by the group online, Rawdah al-Yussif, the campaign's supervisor and organizer, wrote about “her dismay at the efforts of some who have liberal demands that do not comply with Islamic law (Shariah) or with the Kingdom's traditions and customs.”
Yussif also argued in her statement that the campaign’s mission is to promote the voices of Saudi women who reject the “ignorant and vexatious demands” of liberals to do away with the guardianship system. She added that guardians protect women and the stipulation that women can only travel with their guardians' approval is in their interests, giving them protection.
Yussif said the campaign is supported by Saudi women belonging to all parts of the conservative society and is currently working to collect votes on its website.
The Saudi government has repeatedly told international conferences that no such system exists, but in July, leading women's activist Wajeha al-Huwaider was barred from leaving the country because she did not have her guardian's position, leading rights group Human Rights Watch reported.
The travel restrictions came after Saudi officials in Geneva had said that there was no such guardianship system in place in the country.
“The Saudi government is saying one thing to the Human Rights Council in Geneva but doing another thing inside the kingdom,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch in a press release. “It needs to stop requiring adult women to seek permission from men, not just pretend to stop it.”
HRW condemned the laws, saying it does not allow women to have full rights guaranteed by international human rights doctrines, to which Saudi Arabia is party to.
“Saudi Arabia continues to treat women as perpetual minors by refusing to allow them to make decisions about their own health,” said Whitson. “In Saudi Arabia, men get to decide how healthy a woman can be.”

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