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Saudi activists demand end to "absolute" male authority - media

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 3 Mar 2014 13:03 GMT
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A veiled Saudi woman makes coffee as she works at a coffee shop in Tabuk, 1,500 km from Riyadh November 30, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Alhwaity
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A group of Saudi activists have submitted a petition to the Islamic kingdom's influential Shoura council to demand an end to the "absolute authority" of male guardians over women in the country, according to media reports.

The petition, which was signed by 10 women activists ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, also calls for Saudi women to be permitted to drive, the reports said.

"Rights activists have petitioned the Shoura Council on the occasion of International Women's Day, demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women," one of the activists, Aziza Yousef, was quoted as telling AFP news agency.

Under Saudi Arabia's entrenched guardianship laws, women must seek permission from their fathers, husbands or sons to perform basic tasks such as opening a bank account, applying for a job and travelling abroad.

Traditionally viewed as a protection, it governs nearly every aspect of a woman's life, including her ability to marry or even to undergo medical treatment.

Last year, King Abdullah appointed the first of 30 women to the Shoura consultative council. The council is the nearest the kingdom has to a parliament, though its members are not elected but appointed by the king and cannot make laws but only issue recommendations.

For many activists, progress on women's rights in Saudi Arabia remains achingly slow. However, some see a breakthrough on Saudi Arabia's ban on women drivers with newspapers, online petitions and some members of the ruling family publicly calling for a change in the rules.

There is no specific law or text in sharia backing the men-only road rules, which government officials have often said are in place because society is not yet ready for women to drive.

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