Earlier this year, the Saudi female rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul was released from prison. While certainly a cause for celebration, to many it was also a reminder of the persistent lack of political freedom in Saudi Arabia. Loujain Al-Hathloul was originally arrested for protesting the ban on women driving, and although this ban was lifted in 2018, she still remained in prison. Even after her release, she won’t be allowed to travel for the next five years.
To understand women’s inequality in Saudi Arabia beyond the headlines, we need to have a conversation about the male guardianship system–a term that refers to a variety of formal and informal barriers women in Saudi Arabia face when attempting to make decisions or take action without the presence or consent of a male relative. Human Rights Watch has released a comprehensive report on the male guardianship system, which you can find here.
Today, we have a conversation with the author of this report, Kristine Beckerle. We talk about the dynamics of being a Western reporter covering the Middle East, Loujain Al-Hathloul’s story, feminist solidarity, and the complexities of the male guardianship system.