Escaped 18-year-old triggers debate on the system of male guardians for all Saudi women

18 year old Rahafs escape from Saudi Arabia has initiated a debate on the strict guardianship policy in the country, where all women must have a male guardian.
Saudi Arabian Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is in Thailand where she has been given refugee status after having escaped from the family, which she claims exposed her to psychological and physical violence. 

The woman said she would be killed by the family if she travels back and her male guardian has reviewed her to travel “without his permission.” 18-year-old’s escape has led to a debate on social media among young Saudi women – and men about the strict guardianship policy.

 All women in Saudi Arabia must have a male guardian, who may be either a husband, father or a relative. These men need to formally give their consent before a woman can study, get married, drive a car or obtain a passport. The UN has given Rahaf (18) refugee status Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) has made a number of changes politically over the past year. Among other things, getting women now allowed to drive a car, but still requires that the woman receive permission from their male guardian. 

Guardianship gives men absolute authority over women. He can control her, Fike to her, beat her, do what he wants, and the government will not stop him, said Bandar, a young Saudi Arabian medical student in a video on Twitter: – This means that women dream of living elsewhere, away from where they were born and raised. Why? Because living here stifle them, continues Bandar. Qunun have even gone out on Twitter against Guardianship policy in Saudi Arabia. – Drop guardianship, or emigrate we, all together, she writes. 

Ahmad Nasser al-Shathri writes on Twitter that the idea that a woman’s innate desire is to be a housewife and prevents the growth of society. The Saudi society has largely failed to come to terms with a reality where women have an equally strong desire for self-realization, he writes Hessah al-Ajaji were among those who last year took advantage of the opening to let women drive in Saudi Arabia. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did politics in the country a bit more liberal last year when women for the first time were allowed to drive, were allowed to go to football games and take jobs which lay outside the traditional gender roles. In recent months, the media in Saudi Arabia hailed the country’s first female restaurant manager, first female news anchor and the first female race-car driver. For the first time also women watching concerts and social gatherings. But all these can not done without the permission of a male guardian. 

They attempt to change the system bit by bit to prevent a backlash which will make the country even more conservative. According to Professor BessM Momani at the University of Waterloo in Canada, the social pressure from young people who Rahaf al-Qunun who believe that the reforms go too slowly becoming a major political challenge than the religious conservatives.

Updated: January 11, 2019 — 10:43 am

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