Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Women’s and Girls’ Rights in saudi Arabia

Women’s and Girls’ Rights in saudi Arabia

The Saudi guardianship system continues to treat women as minors. Under this discriminatory system, girls and women of all ages are forbidden from traveling, studying, or working without permission from their male guardians. In 2009 the Ministry of Commerce, though not other ministries, stopped requiring women to conduct ministerial business through a male representative. 

On September 25 King Abdullah announced that women will be able to vote in municipal elections in 2015. The government continued to exclude women as voters or candidates in the September 2011 municipal elections, despite a two-year delay to allow for logistical preparations to include women. In March 2011 women activists launched the Baladi (My Country) campaign in protest, trying—unsuccessfully—to register to vote. In the first municipal elections in 2005, authorities said that election workers could not verify a woman’s identity since many did not have identity cards. However, the Interior Ministry began issuing identity cards to women over 22 years old in 2000. The king also promised to appoint women as full members of the Shura Council. 

On May 22, Saudi authorities arrested Manal al-Sharif after she defied the kingdom’s de facto ban on women driving. Al-Sharif appeared in a video showing herself behind the wheel. Prosecutors charged her with “tarnishing the kingdom’s reputation abroad” and “stirring up public opinion,” according to Saudi press reports. On May 30, Khobar police released al-Sharif from prison after she appealed to King Abdullah. 

On June 17 around 40 women with international drivers’ licenses participated in a “women2drive” campaign. No law bars women from driving, but senior government clerics have ruled against the practice. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to prohibit women from driving.

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