Saudi cleric says male guardianship should apply only to marriage

Saudi women and men, members of the Saudi Shura Council, attend a session chaired by Saudi Arabia's King Salman, in Riyadh December 23, 2015. (Reuters)

A senior member of Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim clerical body has said he believes the kingdom’s system of male guardianship should apply only to marriage, a local newspaper reported on Thursday.

Saudi women are required to have male guardians their entire lives, regardless of age. A woman must obtain her guardian’s consent before she can travel, marry or be released from prison, and in some cases to work or access healthcare, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch.

Sheikh Abdullah al-Manea’s comment to the Arabic language Okaz newspaper is unlikely to bring immediate change in the status of women, but may be an opening for women’s rights supporters to press for relaxation of strict social traditions.

Manea made his comment in response to a question about an online campaign calling for an end to the guardianship system.

The country’s top religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, earlier in the week had described such a call as a crime against Sunni Islam and the teachings of the Koran.

Manea, who sits on the powerful Council of Senior Scholars, said that adult women who are capable of managing their affairs had the right to make their own financial and legal decisions, except on the issue of marriage, Okaz said.

“All rights that a man has, she has the same,” Okaz quoted Manea as saying. “There is no guardianship for anything, except in marriage, which has a condition that her guardian must approve.”

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47