While Saudi Arabia's heavily criticized male guardianship system has yet to be completely abolished, it looks like it's slowly being dismantled

In the latest blow to the system, the kingdom's Ministry of Health recently directed all local health facilities to grant women their right to seek medical treatment without the approval of a male guardian, informed sources told Saudi Gazette.

For decades, an article included under the country's male guardianship scheme barred women from undergoing any medical procedure without the permission of a father, brother, husband, or any other male relative.

A couple of years back, an order sent out by King Salman stated that women were no longer required to provide written consent of their male guardians for medical procedures. However, this specific part of the decree didn't take effect up until the latest directive was issued. Under it, medics are required to seek "the approval of the adult and mentally capable patient" regardless of gender.

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.

Earlier this year, the country granted women their right to apply for passports and travel outside the kingdom without male approval. 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 constitutes a huge step forward for women in the kingdom, it's not enough. 

Why? Because women in the country still require male consent to get married, live on their own, and leave prison or domestic abuse shelters. They are also not entitled to pass on citizenship to their children nor provide consent for the latter to marry.

The male guardianship system leaves women prone to abuse

Because it grants so much power to men, the system renders women helpless, especially when facing abuse. 

For one, a woman is not allowed to report domestic violence to the police without her male guardian being present. In cases where the abuser is the victim's guardian, the entire nonsensical process is rendered useless. 

For two, thousands of men have abused the system, twisting it in their favor and using its rules to subject women to gross injustices. 

These violations prompted Saudi authorities to take action against male guardians who were "misusing the male guardianship system" but didn't lead to the system's abolishment. 

Saudi women won't rest until this system ends

Saudi women are fighting to break-up 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.

Over the years, many Saudi women even risked their lives to shatter the unjust system governing them. Others were arrested for defying it including Mariam Al-Otaibi, a Saudi women's rights activist who was detained after trying to escape her abusive family. The young woman moved to Riyadh in a bid to find work and lead a more independent life. Her arrest came after her father filed a complaint against her for being absent from home, something that continues to be considered an offense for women under the country's male guardianship system.