Cartoons Depict How Men Control The Lives Of Women In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia might have introduced significant economic and social reforms lately, but women’s rights in the Gulf kingdom remain as restrictive as ever.

Saudi Woman

Saudi Arabia proudly announced it has issued approval for four female athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics starting in August.

It is good news considering the conservative Gulf kingdom has allowed, for the second time, its female athletes to compete in the games.

However, the inclusion of women Olympians certainly doesn’t signify anything important since the state of basic women’s rights in the country remains as bleak as ever.

In a series of new videos, Human Rights Watch yet again highlights how Saudi women, even in this day and age, face several restrictions borne out of a repressive male guardianship system.

The human rights group used cartoons to depict the various ways a Saudi woman is controlled by a male guardian, known as a mahram in Arabic.

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This part shows how, in cases of domestic violence, a wife has no choice but to reconcile with her abusive husband  which usually leads to more abuse.

This clip explains how women in Saudi Arabia need a male guardian's permission to be released from prison, which basically means a woman’s freedom literally depends on him.

“The [authorities] keep a woman in jail… until her legal guardian comes and gets her, even if he is the one who put her in jail,” a women’s rights activist told HRW.

Lastly, the organization depicted the struggles of a Saudi woman who cannot travel abroad unless and until her husband gives her permission to do so. This gets a lot more complicated in cases where women try to escape an abusive relationship since the very person responsible for their ordeal is actually the one who controls their movement outside the country.

“The fact that Saudi women are still forced to get a male guardian’s permission to travel, work, or do anything else is a long-standing rights violation and a barrier to the government’s plans to improve the economy,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director. “The government should do itself a favor and finally listen to the demands of half its population to be freed from the shackles of the guardianship system.”

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