SAUDI Arabia has pledged to take steps toward removing rules requiring a woman to have a male guardian at all times, saying there is no such legal requirement, a rights organisation said.
Saudi rights officials committed in a review with the UN Human Rights Council to take steps to end the male guardianship rule, to give women full legal identity and to ban discrimination by gender, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement from Geneva today.
HRW said that during the review Saudi officials said the Islamic sharia law concept of male guardianship does not exist in Saudi law.
"Islam guarantees a woman’s right to conduct her affairs and enjoy her legal capacity,’’ the Saudi officials said, according to HRW.
In Saudi Arabia much of life is governed by the strict Wahhabi branch of Islam and law is heavily based on sharia, or Islamic law.
Women are required to have male guardians to move in public, travel abroad, get married or even access many public services. They are also prevented from driving, making the country the only one in the world with such a restriction.
Many women, especially in the commercial sector, have been agitating to have such rules changed, but face tough resistance from hardline clerics who have powerful influence over the legal system.