Saudi Arabian women are banding together to sign a petition to change the country’s male guardianship system, which currently prevents women from traveling abroad and working without the consent of a male guardian. Saudi Arabian women were also only recently given the legal right to vote in 2015.
BBC News reports that the movement is being led by activist Aziza Al-Yousef, who believes the campaign is for a great cause, but wants to see results.
“In every aspect, the important issue is to treat a woman as a full citizen,” she said.
The petition is mainly calling for women to be ‘treated like an adult’, being able to make their own decisions in areas such as working or studying without the permission of a male.
The movement started to gain traction after a Human Rights Watch report entitled ‘Boxed In: Women and Saudi Arabia’s Male Guardianship System’ was released to tackle the issue. Human Rights Watch also released a series of videos calling for change on the basis of key human rights that were being denied from women.
The report started a hashtag calling for change on Twitter, which translated in English to “Saudi Women Want To Abolish The Guardianship System”. This was met with a counter hashtag, which said “The Guardianship Is For Her Not Against Her”.
Human Rights Watch researcher Kristine Beckerle was pleased with the large reaction to the report, with citizens even bombarding the Saudi King’s office with over 2500 telegrams calling for change. She told BBC News that it was ‘incredible and unprecedented’.
“I was flabbergasted – not only by the scale, but the creativity with which they’ve been doing it,” she said. “They’ve made undeniably clear they won’t stand to be treated as second-class citizens any longer, and it’s high time their government listened.”
Although there has been no official response yet from the government on this issue, the petition (which is only getting larger) has created some much-needed noise on this topic.