By: Andrea Xu
Despite the monumental obstacles the world has overcome in recent decades in pushing for universal human rights, there are still some rights yet to be practiced by certain populations in the world, some which may be seen as a rudimentary and fundamental right. For the women in Saudi Arabia, the right to choose her spouse is exactly one right they have yet to exercise.
In Saudi Arabia, choosing a spouse is not solely up to the woman, but rather is dictated by her father and brothers, with them usually pressuring her to marry a cousin. This inability to choose a spouse not only demonstrates how patriarchal Saudi Arabia’s society may be, but also the lack of control women have over their lives against their sometimes abusive guardians. Under Islam rule, a woman is able to choose her partner as long as he is considered a moral and upstanding individual. Yet, under the guardianship system, which stems from tribal traditions and deeply entrenched Saudi Arabian culture, women must still get permission from their guardians to marry.
Take the case of Samia, a surgeon who is responsible for her patients’ lives; yet, ironically she is unable to control her own life. For years her father withheld her salary, giving her only a small monthly allowance, a motive as stated by Hussein Nasser al-Sharif, manager of the Jeddah branch of the National Society for Human Rights, common in abusive guardians. When her father and her brothers forced her to marry her cousin, Samia’s refusal resulted in a beating and an imprisonment in her room that lasted for weeks. Her living situation for the past five years? A government-funded sheltered for battered women. Samia has taken her case to two courts, both of which have ruled against her, and is now taking her case to the country’s Supreme Court.
While Samia’s story tragically illustrates how prevalent and serious gender inequality is in certain countries, the fact that Samia is challenging this traditional system serves as an inspiration for all. As more and more women are now challenging their abusive guardians, there can be nothing but hope for women all over the world, to fight for the right to control their own lives.
To learn more about Samia’s story, see the full story from The Christian Science Monitor.
If you would like to help promote women empowerment:
- Volunteer overseas at a domestic violence crisis center.
- Your donation of $20 can help safely relocated women and their children from domestic violence.