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Daily Archives: June 14, 2009

Sunday time:Fire rods and a Childish God

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Saudis pledges to loosen controls on women

Saudi Arabia has pledged to take steps toward removing rules requiring a woman to have a male guardian at all times, saying there is no such legal requirement, a rights organisation said.
Saudi rights officials committed in a review with the UN Human Rights Council to take steps to end the male guardianship rule, to give women full legal identity and to ban discrimination by gender, Human Rights Watch said in a statement from Geneva received yesterday.
HRW said that during the review, which took place in Geneva on June 10, Saudi officials said the Islamic sharia law concept of male guardianship does not exist in Saudi law.
"Islam guarantees a woman's right to conduct her affairs and enjoy her legal capacity," the Saudi officials said, according to HRW.
In Saudi Arabia much of life is governed by the strict Wahhabi branch of Islam, and law is heavily based on sharia, or Islamic law.
Women are required to have male guardians to move in public, travel abroad, get married or even access many public services. They are also prevented from driving, making the country the only one in the world with such a restriction.
Many women, especially in the commercial sector, have been agitating to have such rules changed, but face tough resistance from hardline clerics who have powerful influence over the legal system.
HRW said the Saudi officials also pledged to end the practice of executing people for crimes committed as juveniles, noting that Saudi Arabia is one of only five countries in the world that allow it.
The Saudis "should now work to carry out these reforms rapidly," HRW said.
On February 6, Saudi officials submitted their rights record to the scrutiny of the UN Human Rights Council for the first time, defending some of the religious concepts behind Saudi law but arguing that conditions were improving.

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