• Saudi women are rallying behind both English and Arabic hashtags that espouse liberation from male guardianship. (Getty Images / Twitter)Source: Getty Images / Twitter
The need for female equality in Saudi Arabia has been simmering at the surface over the past year, but with this new social campaign to end male guardianship has the issue reached boiling point?
By
Shami Sivasubramanian

5 Sep 2016 - 3:37 PM  UPDATED 5 Sep 2016 - 3:37 PM

There are few things a woman from Saudi Arabia can do without the blessing of a man. 

Saudi women can’t open bank accounts; start or terminate work; travel; apply for healthcare; legal services; or even make formal complaints to the police without a male signatory to legally validate their claims.

Only last December were Saudi women granted the right to vote in municipal elections.

However, it's still illegal for them to drive.

In July, the Human Rights Watch released a report outlining the continued potential for and resultant abuse against women as a result of male guardianship.

But some Saudi women aren’t shy to call out the hypocrisy behind the male guardianship rules.

“We are entrusted with raising the next generation but you can’t trust us with ourselves,” says Raina, 34. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

But now Saudi women are standing up to their oppressors, rallying behind both English and Arabic social media hashtags that espouse liberation from male guardianship.

The most popular ones so far are #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship, #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen, and #سعوديات_نطالب_باسقاط_الولايه which translates to ‘We demand to bring down the Saudi statewide’.

In last December’s municipal election, women were also permitted to run for office. A few seats were won by women. 

However, the effectiveness of their role was quickly diminished with the advent of a rule requiring female council members to be segregated from their male counterparts. 

It meant female council members could only attend official meetings via video.

Some changes do seem to be underway. Saudi Arabia’s new Vision 2030 initiative lists the "improve women's productive capabilities and enable them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of our society and economy" within its agenda. 

It also refers to women as a “great asset”.

Whether that will translate into something Saudi women will find empowering and not extortive; only time will tell.