Saudi man jailed, fined $8k after calling for end to strict male control over women

Saudi man jailed, fined $8k after calling for end to strict male control over women
A Saudi Arabian man has been sentenced to one year in jail and fined $8,000 after calling for his country's government to end its system of male guardianship over women.

A court in the eastern city of Dammam found the man guilty of “inciting to end guardianship of women,” Okaz newspaper reported on Tuesday, according to AFP. He was also fined 30,000 riyals (US$8,000).

The conviction is in response to posters the man put up inside mosques, which called for the government to abolish strict rules giving men wide control over women.

He was arrested and questioned for the posters, admitting that he put up the flyers in several mosques as part of an “awareness campaign.” He said he launched the campaign after finding that some of his "female relatives were facing injustice at the hands of their families."

Police also determined during questioning that the man was also behind an online campaign to end male guardianship over women. That campaign, widely shared on Twitter, included a petition signed by thousands of Saudis in September.

Saudi Arabia's guardianship system requires a male family member – typically a father, husband, or brother – to grant permission for a woman to study, travel, rent an apartment, receive medical treatment or marry. Many employers also require proof of consent in order to hire a woman.

Activists have stated that even female prisoners must be received by a male guardian upon their release, meaning that many remain in jail or a shelter after their sentences if a man refuses to accept them.

The kingdom has some of the world's toughest restrictions on women. Earlier this month, a Saudi woman was arrested in the capital, Riyadh, after reportedly going outside in a dress and jacket rather than a traditional robe and headscarf, local media reported at the time. 

In addition to other numerous laws restricting women, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where females are not allowed to drive. That rule was challenged by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in November, with the royal family member stating that it is “high time that Saudi women started driving their cars.” He stated weeks later that the ban is hurting the country's economy. 

In April, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dismissed rumors that the driving ban would soon be lifted, stressing that the country was “not ready” to allow women to drive.