Human Rights Watch

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Saudi Arabia: 10 Reasons Why Women Flee

Rampant Discrimination, Abuse

Thursday 31 January 2019

(Beirut, January 29, 2019) – Rahaf al-Qunun, the Saudi woman who managed to successfully flee her allegedly abusive family, has shed new light on the countless women trapped under the abusive male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch said today. Women face systematic discrimination and are left exposed to domestic violence under the male guardianship system and have few places to turn when they face abuse, leading some women to undertake dangerous escape attempts to flee the country.

Under the male guardianship system, a man controls a Saudi woman’s life from her birth until her death. Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian, normally a father or husband, but in some cases a brother or even a son, who has the power to make a range of critical decisions on her behalf. The Saudi state essentially treats women as permanent legal minors. Saudi Arabia has done very little to end the system, which remains the most significant impediment to women’s rights in the country.

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