Sunday, April 20, 2008

"The Saudi government should abide by its international obligations and dismantle discriminatory policies against women, including male guardianship of women, a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch said. The 50-page report, which will be released Monday, draws on more than 100 interviews with Saudi women to document the effects of these policies on their rights. "The Saudi government sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women," said Farida Deif, women's rights researcher for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch. "Saudi women won't make any progress until the government ends the abuses that stem from these misguided policies." The report, "Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia," lists the restrictions that women find themselves under because of male guardianship and the segregation of sexes enforced in the kingdom. Saudi women often must obtain permission from a guardian — a father, husband, brother or son — to work, travel, study, marry, or even access health care. They cannot open bank accounts for children, enroll them in school, obtain school files, or travel with their children without written permission from the child's father. Saudi women are prevented from accessing government agencies that have not established female sections unless they have a male representative. Despite national regulations to the contrary, some hospitals require a guardian's permission to allow women to be admitted, agree to medical procedures for themselves or their children or be discharged, according to the report. A Saudi woman's access to justice is also severely constrained. Women continue to have trouble filing a court case or even being heard in court without a legal guardian, according to the report. Women are required to wear a full-face veil in court and be accompanied by a male relative able to verify their identity, it said."