By FATIMA MUHAMMAD and Layan Damanhouri
JEDDAH — Saudi women and human rights activists welcomed the royal decree easing the guardianship system that required female citizens to seek permission from a male family member to travel, study, get some health treatments, rent property etc.
Lina Almaeena, a member of the Shoura Council and co-founder of Jeddah United, called it a “historic” decision.
“It is a great step ahead that will offer more opportunities to empower women and will highlight their issues,” she told Saudi Gazette.
This move, she added, will effectively improve services and will increase public awareness.
Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, member of the National Society for Human Rights, emphasized that an adult woman in Islam does not need a guardian to manage and control aspects of her life.
“This guardianship system has allowed many men to abuse their rights over their daughters, wives, and female members of their family,” she said.
Culture and social traditions are responsible for misinterpreting guardianship system that is limited to minors, the disabled and insane. In Shariah law, these are the only segments of people who need a guardian to manage and lead their lives, Al-Abideen said, adding that a guardian does not have to be male member as a mother can be a guardian for her family.
Many women are not aware of their rights and legal obligations, she added.
This royal decree is a step toward regaining the rights of Muslim woman, according to Professor Samia Alamoudi, advocate of women’s health empowerment.
“Acknowledging this issue by the government is an achievement as it has been a taboo for years,” she said.
“Earlier certain cases were taken care of by family members, organizations, universities. Now this decree clarifies to all that female citizens have independence,” she added.
When it comes to patients’ rights, some hospitals and doctors require the guardian’s permission to proceed with a female patient’s treatment in some cases.
With this decree, we can officially end this practice by male family members, Alamoudi said.
Lama Karkanawi, a senior account manager at Hadath Group and an active social figure, noted that the decision will allow women to obtain more rights.
Saudi women, she added, have proved themselves locally, regionally and internationally.
She said that an awareness campaign might be needed for men who are disappointed with this decision.
Omaima Al-Khamis, a writer, also described the decision on her twitter account as “historic” and said, “with this decree, my citizenship is complete. Men will stand next to me with their honored value as a husband and a brother. Together we move forward toward the future.”
Mohammad Al-Muadi, spokesman of the Human Rights Commission, announced that royal decree states that all regulations that demand approval of a male guardian must be collected and their legal basis must be clarified.
He added that no specific information can be confirmed until all [government] agencies collect what they have. He added that this decision marks a new era of women empowerment.
The Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) head of media department Mohammed Almuadi told Saudi Gazette the commission will work with government bodies to identify these services and raise awareness through campaigns.
“This decree aims to empower women who play a significant role in the sustainable development of the country. This announcement covers all the services that require a guardian’s permission unless there is a legal basis or conflict with Shariah law,” he added.