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Rights Organization Says Saudi Women Treated Like Children

April 23, 2008 11:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report Monday saying that women in Saudi Arabia are being treated as “perpetual minors.”

30-Second Summary

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Human Rights Watch interviewed over 100 women and concluded that the country’s guardianship tradition was “grossly discriminatory.” The findings have been published in a report titled “Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia.”

Under the guardianship system, women cannot “work, travel, study or marry, and can be denied access to health, judicial and other public services without first obtaining permission from a male guardian,” Arabian Business reports.

Public places such as restaurants and offices are segregated according to sex, and women must always be in the company of a male guardian while out in public.

“Saudi women won’t make any progress until the government ends the abuses that stem from these misguided policies,” said Farida Deif, women’s rights researcher for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch.

The current report follows two other studies about Saudi human rights lapses released by the organization in late March. Included in the abuses detailed in those reports were a “lack of legal counsel, and forced confessions,” according to The Christian Science Monitor.

On a Los Angeles Times blog, Borzou Daragahi stresses the implications of the report, considering the United States’ close alliance with Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s role as an influential voice in the Arab and Muslim world.

But Mary Dejevsky of British newspaper The Independent questions the study, citing Qatar’s financial success: “When campaigners demand an end to such ‘misguided’ policies as segregation by sex, what they are actually saying is that Western ways rule. One look at the newly prosperous Gulf states should call that assumption into question.”

Headline Link: ‘Saudi Women Denied Basic Human Rights’

Background: ‘Slowly Opening Dialog About Human Rights’

Opinion & Analysis: The report

Reference: The Human Rights Watch report

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