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Saudi women forced to remain single sue male guardians


Saudi women prevented from marrying by overzealous male guardians are now turning to the courts, reports the Associated Press.

Forcing a woman to remain single is known as ‘adhl’, and is prohibited under Islamic law. Dozens of cases have reached court, although a Facebook group started by a university professor estimates the true number of victims at around 800,000.

Women in Saudi Arabia are forced to obtain the permission of a male guardian in order to participate in many ordinary activities, from travelling to owning a mobile phone. The Saudi feminist Wajeha al-Hawaidar calls male guardianship ‘a form of slavery’.

Adhl takes place for a number of reasons. Sometimes marriage is forbidden because a suitor may belong to the wrong tribe, in other cases it is because the woman’s family cannot afford a dowry, or because the family is unwilling to relinquish its claim on a woman’s entire salary.

The cases have so far failed to achieve positive outcomes – some judges have even punished victims of adhl for defying the wishes of their male guardians.

News of the practice of adhl comes at a significant time, following Saudi Arabia’s much-criticised recent appointment to the newly-formed United Nations Women’s Rights Council.

We must hope that increased international scrutiny of Saudi Arabia will put pressure on the country to give greater freedoms to its women.

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