As dozens of Saudi women told Human Rights Watch, the male guardianship system is the most significant impediment to realizing women’s rights in the country, effectively rendering adult women legal minors who cannot make key decisions for themselves.
Rania, a 34-year-old Saudi woman, said, “We are entrusted with raising the next generation but you can’t trust us with ourselves.
Men remain women’s guardians, with all the associated levers of control, during court proceedings, and until a divorce is finalized.
There is deeply entrenched discrimination within the legal system, and courts recognize legal claims brought by guardians against female dependents that restrict women’s movement or enforce a guardian’s authority over them.
The need for substantial, systemic reform is perhaps starkest with regard to the state’s response to violence against women.