Male guardianship in Saudi Arabia: campaigner 'released without man’s permission'

Male guardianship in Saudi Arabia: campaigner 'released without man’s permission'
By Chris Harris
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A woman fighting male guardianship in Saudi Arabia has been released from jail – without reportedly needing a man’s permission.

It could be a significant moment in the battle for women’s independence in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The country’s male guardianship rules mean women often need a man’s consent for basic tasks such as driving or applying for a passport.

Their permission is also required to leave prison.

So when Maryam al-Otaibi was released from jail in recent days without male consent, campaigners considered it a significant step.

She was jailed earlier this year after fleeing to the capital Riyadh to lead an independent life away from her family.

Al-Otaibi has been a key figure in the campaign against Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship restrictions, which has included petitions, letters and use of the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian on social networks.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights said al-Otaibi has been attacked by her brothers for engaging in the campaign.

King Salman launched a three-month review into male guardianship in April and said women should not face restrictions in accessing government services, unless existing laws require it. However, results of the review have not yet been published.

Rothna Begum, a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Euronews: “While we celebrate Maryam al-Otaibi’s release, she should never have been arrested in the first place.

“The Saudi authorities should have ensured her safety from abuse from her family, not detained her for several months.

“They should now ensure that any woman held for ‘disobedience’ or living away from their family is released immediately and unconditionally.”

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