Hundreds of people from Saudi Arabia sent telegrams to the king Sunday asking that he end laws that require women of any age to have male guardianship with the right to make major life decisions for them.
The effort to change laws requiring women to have a male guardian has been going on for months in the midst of other changes happening in Saudi Arabia. The nation is one of the most strict in its laws concerning women’s rights, but women there are slowly beginning to demand change.
Currently, women need legal permission from a male — such as husband, father, or son — to marry, travel outside the kingdom, or study abroad, for starters. Many hospitals will not do procedures on women without her guardian’s permission and employers may even want a man’s approval for women to hold a job.
Saudi Arabia has twice told the United Nations it would do away with the guardianship system, the most recent time being in 2013, Human Rights Watch told The Wall Street Journal.
The unofficial slogan of the movement reads “I am my own guardian” in Arabic and has been made into stickers and rubber bracelets. A Twitter campaign goes by an Arabic hashtag that translates, “Saudi women want to abolish the guardian system.”
The push end male guardianship comes as women have slowly risen to senior positions in some Saudi businesses and have participated in elections for the first time. Saudi women make up the majority of university students, but can only study abroad with a male guardian’s accompaniment.
The Saudi government has an official goal of bringing more women into the work force by 2030, and many women see a change in the law as necessary for keeping up with changing times.