SAUDI ARABIA: Women Still Treated as “Perpetual Minors”
By Jim Lobe Republish
WASHINGTON, Apr 21 2008 (IPS) - Despite Saudi Arabia’s accession in 2001 to an international treaty banning discrimination against women, laws and customs in the kingdom ensures that women are treated like “perpetual minors”, according to a new report released Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW(.
Requirements that each female, regardless of age, be assigned a male guardian – be it a father, a husband, or even a son – who must give permission for their charges to do everything from travel abroad to study or seek medical care effectively deprives women of their most basic rights and makes their participation in public life far more difficult.
“The Saudi government sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women,” according to Farida Deif, women’s rights researcher for HRW’s Middle East division. “Saudi women won’t make any progress until the government ends the abuses that stem from these misguided policies.”
With its most-conservative interpretation of Islam, Saudi Arabia is well known for its uniqueness as the world’s only country that does not permit women to drive an automobile. But the discrimination waged against women is far more basic, according to the new report, entitled “Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia”.
Based on interviews with 109 Saudi women from all walks of life during HRW’s first authorised visit to Saudi Arabia in late 2006, the 50-page report notes the legal incapacity of women extends even to their authority over their own children.
Women cannot open bank accounts for their children, nor enroll them in school or obtain information from their schools without the permission of the children’s father, whether or not the parents are divorced.
Under the kingdom’s Basic Law of Governance, Shariah, or Islamic law, constitutes the basic law of the land as...