On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Commission (HRC) raised alarm over the fact that many legal guardians prevent their daughters from getting married.
This is a common practice among some families in the kingdom, though it violates the country's laws and is considered a breach of a woman's right to make her own decisions when it comes to starting a family.
In an official statement on the matter, HRC stressed that the phenomenon is also "a religiously forbidden practice" and a form of abuse.
"Article 39 of the Legal Procedures Law stipulates that the woman who has been prevented by her legal guardians from getting married is entitled to file a lawsuit against them," the statement added.
Guardians accused of barring their daughters from marrying can only be tried in court if reports are filed against them. Many Saudi women hesitate to take legal action against their own families due to societal norms and familial pressure.
Why are women being banned from getting married?
Speaking to StepFeed, Lamees, a Saudi social worker, explained some of the reasons why a number of families and legal male guardians stop their daughters from getting married. She said that there isn't one common cause for this, as each case stems from a different situation.
"The cases I've seen or heard of include situations where male guardians tried to prevent their daughters from marrying because they didn't approve of the men who had proposed to them. We also witness cases where parents refuse to accept marriages over dowry disputes," she added.
Lamees has also been involved in cases where women were denied their right to get married because their families were financially dependent on them.
Regardless, the social worker believes legal action in these matters is a step in the right direction but is not enough to prevent them from taking place.
"We need to make changes to the system that allows guardians to control these personal decisions. In Islam, it's forbidden for a parent to stop their daughter's marriage for no valid reason so why is the male guardianship system allowing them to do that?" she questioned.
The male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia is slowly being ripped apart
The male guardianship system once granted men complete control over women in nearly all aspects of life, but that's changing as the kingdom has gradually been stripping power away from them.
A few days ago, the country's Ministry of Health directed all local health facilities to grant women their right to seek medical treatment without the approval of a male guardian.
The country also granted women their right to apply for passports and travel outside the kingdom without male approval back in August. This specific move dealt a huge blow to the system, a legal code influenced by a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued a royal decree freeing women from their male guardians when it comes to government services including applying for work permits and educational services.
While all the aforementioned constitute a huge step forward for women in the kingdom, they're not enough. Why? Because women in the country still require male consent to get married and are being prevented from doing so by some guardians who twist the system to their favor. They also need permission to live on their own and leave prison or domestic abuse shelters.
The fight to completely abolish the system continues
Saudi women are fighting to dismantle the system as a whole, both online and off. To them, it doesn't make any sense that their most basic rights are dependent on how "open-minded" their guardian actually is.
Earlier this year, they launched an online movement against it under the viral Arabic hashtag "end male guardianship or we will all emigrate." This is just one of many campaigns created by women in a bid to push boundaries and defy deep-rooted societal norms.
The abolishment of this system is the only way to stop men from using it as an excuse to abuse women and deprive them of their most basic rights.