09/22/2018, 09.05
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Court in Jeddah orders father to get a passport for his adult daughter

Women must have the permission of a male relative to travel. The young woman asked her father, whom she had not seen in six years, to get the travel document. When he refused, she went to the court. The case set off a debate on social media.

Jeddah (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Saudi civilian court ruled in favour of a young woman, ordering her father to obtain a passport for her, Saudi media, including pro-government media like Okaz, reported.

The woman, who has lived with her mother for 10 years, has had no contacts with her father for six years. However, based on the guardianship law, she needed his permission to get a passport and travel abroad.

When he refused, she took him to court, which – in a rather rare decision – ruled in her favour, ordering her father to apply on her behalf right away for the travel document.

The case set off a lively debate about the guardianship system, which gives a male guardian – father, husband, son or other related male – authority over women if they want to travel, get married or engage in other activities.

Many Twitter users spoke out on the issue, highlighting the contradictions and injustice of the system.

One Saudi woman complained that even adult women have to ask for permission, sometimes to younger male relatives, like their sons, which is “offensive and humiliating”.

Recently, Saudi Arabia launched a series of social reforms to ease restrictions on women, such as lifting a ban on women driving and opening the stadium doors for them.

However, human rights groups continue to criticise the Wahhabi regime for keeping the guardianship system, which can allow men to exercise arbitrary authority over the lives of women to whom they are related.

In fact, the issue of human rights sparked the ongoing diplomatic spat with Canada when its ambassador called for the immediate release of activists (including women) arrested in recent months.

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