Saudi activists call on Shura Council to ensure women’s rights

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A group of Saudi academics and activists have issued a letter to the Shura Council stressing the importance of ensuring women’s rights and confronting violence against women.

To mark the occasion of International Women's Day on March 8, a group of Saudi academic and human rights activists have submitted a letter to the Shura Council, demanding that it “abolish the absolute authority of men over women” and calling on the council to “take the necessary procedural and legislative measures and actions to protect women's rights and combat violence against women.”

Aziza Yousef, an academic and human rights activist, told Al-Hayat that the letter is intended “to renew demands for women's rights in several areas, and to make women's rights a top priority for officials within the Shura Council.” Yousef pointed out that “some female MPs, such as Thuraya Obaid and Lubna al-Ansari, are interacting [with us] and have promised to work on much of what was included in the letter.”

The letter, which Al-Hayat secured a copy of, has called on the council to reconsider “the authority of male guardians over Saudi women, as a requirement to have access to education, employment, transportation, litigation, medical treatment, identity documents, passports, private and governmental contracts and to leave rehabilitation institutions or prison.” At the same time, the letter demanded that the council “support mechanisms to combat violence against women, by providing battered women and their children with resources and effective mechanisms.”

The letter noted that this can happen by “issuing a precise personal status law that guarantees the rights of women in the family and their ability to self-determination. The law should put an end to negative phenomena, such as accusing women of committing adultery merely through statements from her spouse, [parent’s] banning women from marrying the person she wants, underage marriage, arbitrary divorce and the absolute authority of man, by protecting women from discrimination or harassment in the workplace and in public spaces.”

The signatories also said that it is necessary “to lift the driving ban, to give those who desire the right to move and manage their affairs, and to provide other women with safe and inexpensive transportation means.” They added that it is regretful that “this ban has endured, despite the fact that it should be a basic right.”

The signatories of the letter, including nearly 25 activists, said that there is a need “to review the discriminatory regulations and practices, most importantly to amend the citizenship system in order to give female citizens the right to grant citizenship to their non-Saudi husbands and children, and to ensure that women are provided with the same services and opportunities, particularly in female facilities, and that equality is achieved in the retirement system, in terms of licenses to become self-employed and to start up a craft, and the economic facilities, as applied for male citizens.” They stressed the importance of ensuring “equal opportunities to enhance women's access to public and private positions,” while stressing the importance of “allowing and licensing civil associations and women's rights organizations to work on empowering women.”

The letter noted that the Shura Council “has an important role in supporting Saudi women and girls in their efforts to win all of their national and legitimate rights, as stated in the main government system and the signed regional and international treaties.” The letter noted that “putting off the examination of these civil and social issues that are necessary for millions of women does not only affect the current status of women, but also the protection of the next generation of girls and the development of their potentials. Failing to give them their rights is an introduction to frustration and unjustified sufferings.”

It's worth mentioning that among those who signed the letter are Aisha al-Manea, Hala Al-Dosari, Eman al-Nafjan, Hind Zahid, Hessa AlSheikh, Hatoon al-Fassi and Najla Hariri.

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Found in: women's rights, women, violence against women, saudi society, saudi arabia, marriage, child marriage, abuse
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