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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A new study by Human Rights Watch says Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system is the most significant impediment to realizing women's rights in the kingdom.
The system effectively renders adult women as legal minors, preventing them from traveling abroad, obtaining a passport, marrying or leaving prison without the consent of a male relative. In some cases, employers will not hire women and hospitals will not perform surgeries without permission from male relatives.
Despite numerous reforms in recent years, including granting women the right to run and vote in local elections, the report released on Sunday finds that a woman's life in Saudi Arabia rests largely on "the good will" of her male guardian — often a father, husband or brother, and in some cases a woman's son.