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Saudi Shura Council rejects proposal to let women marry without a male guardian's permission

The 150-member Shura Council includes 30 women. All members are appointed by the King [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 May, 2020

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Saudi Arabia's Shura Council rejects proposal by female member that would allow women to marry without the permission of a male guardian
The Judicial Committee of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council turned down a proposal submitted by a female council member that would allow women to contract their marriage without requiring the permission of a male guardian.

According to a Saturday report by Al Riyadh, Eqbal Darandari's proposal called on the Ministry of Justice to work with the Supreme Judicial Council to amend the necessary laws and permit adult women to marry a partner on their own.

The council, which is the formal advisory body of the Kingdom, rejected the proposal, saying a male guardian's presence is a key condition to legislate a marriage.

Under Saudi customary law, the presence of a male guardian is considered essential, the pro-government Riyadh-based daily reported.

Citing a statement released by the judicial committee, Al Riyadh said Darandari "withdrew" her proposal, while other council members also took back a request to amend laws relating to different types of divorce – including Faskh [annulment of marriage] and Khala'a [dispossession of a spouse].

Saudi Arabia notoriously restricts women's rights under its male guardianship system, which according to the Human Rights Watch, lets a man "control a Saudi woman's life from her birth until her death".

Every Saudi woman is reqired by law to have a male guardian, who is often the father, husband or sibling of the girl. The guardian makes has the power to make a range of critical decisions on a Saudi woman's behalf.

A Saudi woman is not allowed to legislate her marriage without the approval of her assigned guardian.

Read also: How Saudi Arabia is using G20 talks to hide its terrible record on women's rights

The Shura Council is set to convene on Monday to hear the Judicial Committee's response to observations. Faisal al-Fadil, who heads the economic committee, called on the council to additionally consider other reforms. 

According to Al-Riyadh, Fadil is proposing to abolish "disciplinary" punishments, including floggings and executions and replace them with "other fit punishments that do not go against Islamic Sharia law".

The alternative punishments would reportedly focus on rehabilitation rather than "putting an end to a life or humiliating" the accused.

"The need has become more urgent than ever to consider this proposal. This will help improve the image of the Kingdom and where it falls on human rights. It will bridge the gap with the international community," the pro-Saudi paper wrote.

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