Saudi Arabia: Guardianship System Prevents Freedom of Choice in Marriage
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 10:40 AM

A woman in Saudi Arabia is seeking a Supreme Court hearing hoping to overrule the cultural practice of guardianship wherein women must obtain their guardians’ permission to marry.  The woman, who uses “Samia” as a pseudonym to protect herself, objects to her father’s order that she marry one of her male cousins.

When Samia refused her father’s wishes, she was beaten by him and her brother.  As a result, she has lived in a battered women's shelter for the past five years.  Samia's case was dismissed by two lower courts; one judge ruled that her disobedience to her father suggested she required psychiatric help. 


Though Islam mandates that women be allowed to choose their husbands so long as they are “morally upright,” Saudia Arabian culture and legal practices are heavily influenced by the guardianship system.  The city of Riyadh accepted a United Nations Human Rights Council recommendation to abolish guardianship in 2009, but it has yet to do so. 


Saudi women increasingly object to guardianship, using Facebook to bring attention to fathers that refuse to allow their daughters to marry by choice.  The National Society for Human Rights also notes that more and more women are bringing cases against uncooperative guardians – 86 such cases have been filed in the past five years.



Compiled from: Murphy, Carlyle, Female Saudi doctor appeals to top court for right to choose a husband, Christian Science Monitor, UN Wire, (23 May 2011).