When specialized authorities ignore your case, social media platforms are there to help you get your voice out. Over the years, public opinion has been gaining much momentum that it's been changing many realities that would've been kept private and unmoved had they not been revealed to everyone online.
In a recent case that's still shaking people in Saudi Arabia, a divorced woman took to social media to plead for help after authorities failed to save her children who are allegedly being abused by their father and uncle.
In a series of videos being circulated under the viral hashtag "Asmaa and her family are being abused," the woman revealed her daughters were severely beaten by their father and his family. Though she reported the incident to the Family Protection Unit in both Assir and Bisha, she claimed no official action was taken in the case.
The mother said things escalated further over the weekend with the children's uncle allegedly stabbing one of his nieces, which ultimately prompted her to go public with the case.
"My daughter's uncle stabbed her, he said my son did it but he's lying. She was stabbed on Saturday, the 8th of November. Please save her. Today is Monday, I don't know where she is, no one told me anything about her, I don't know how she's doing, please help me," the mother said.
The mother said she was threatened by her daughters' uncle that if she reported the incident, he'd release private photographs of the kids. However, she had to go public with the case after her daughter was stabbed.
Hours after the woman's videos went viral on Saudi Twitter, the kingdom's Human Rights Committee (HRC) announced it will investigate the case and refer it to local police.
As the case continues to make the rounds online, many are rightfully questioning why no action has been taken yet to at least investigate the matter before the mother had to take it online.
It's a fact that virality has become a lifeline for so many Saudi women and their children because in several cases, victims were only saved after going public with their stories online. This can be attributed to two main reasons. One is that even when a woman is able to physically report domestic abuse to authorities like in the aforementioned case, there's no guarantee action will be taken. Two is that it takes a lot for a woman in Saudi Arabia to report domestic abuse mainly due to the kingdom's male guardianship system.
Waiting for permission from your abuser to report him makes no sense
The legal code influenced by a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law stipulates that a woman must be accompanied by a male guardian - who's usually her father, brother, uncle, or husband - to file legal proceedings.
This is hugely problematic in cases where the abuser is a woman's guardian; such a complicated procedure has left victims helpless and unable to freely file legal complaints. However, this is no longer the case. In the digital age, social media has been providing women with platforms through which they created a loophole to help them get their voices heard.
In the past few years, tens of Saudi women who are victims of domestic violence went public with their cases. More often than not, authorities only took action in some of these happenings after they were reported online.
Activists in the kingdom warn that even if cases go viral, it's not enough to ensure justice for victims. They believe cases must be followed up by the public until abusers are punished.
The country has been taking action against abusers of the male guardianship system
Though the system has yet to be abolished, the kingdom has recently been dismantling several of its rules.
It seems authorities have become aware of the fact that because the male guardianship system grants so much power to men, it renders women helpless. This is especially true when it comes to cases of domestic abuse which are on the rise in the country.
In June, Saudi authorities announced they would be taking action against male guardians who were "misusing the male guardianship system." At the time of its announcement, this was considered a step in the right direction. However, Saudi women continue their fight to abolish the system in its entirety.