This Mother’s Day, we highlight the dramatic challenges faced by #MothersinSaudi.
Too many mothers around the world live under governments that violate their rights and enforce systems of deep discrimination. Here in the U.S., women and mothers also face systemic threats to their health, well-being, safety, and prosperity. To make matters worse, major U.S. allies are among the governments that severely violate the rights of mothers and women.
Saudi Arabia remains one of the only countries in the world where family law is not codified and not a single female judge presides over any court. It’s also one of the few countries in the world where men are granted automatic legal guardianship over their children based on being male and where female citizens cannot pass on citizenship.
- Saudi mothers still do not have the right to automatically pass on citizenship to their children: Saudi citizenship is only passed on through men. If a Saudi woman is married to a foreigner, her children are registered as foreigners in the country.
- Mothers in Saudi Arabia face extreme discrimination in court cases surrounding custody: Unlike men, women’s behavior is highly scrutinized in custody cases, and they struggle to have evidence accepted without male witnesses. Courts in Saudi Arabia have stripped mothers of their parental rights due to their failure to cover their hair or body, their cultural background, and even for working full time.
- Saudi law does not regulate child support: Saudi judges routinely award below-poverty amounts to provide for the care of children. Men often financially abuse mothers caring for their children, forcing mothers to give up parental rights in order for the children to live in dignity.
- Mothers are vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse: Saudi police do little beyond making men sign oaths not to repeat abuse and then send everyone back home. This leaves women vulnerable to repeat violations and leaves children without proper protection.
- Enforcement Courts routinely issue punitive measures against custodial mothers without due process or a hearing: Fathers can easily manipulate enforcement courts as a way of harassing custodial mothers, with courts issuing travel bans, arrest warrants and suspension of government services against mothers without holding hearings.
- Fathers are granted automatic legal guardianship of their children: Even when fathers do not have custody, they are able to track all government activities and movement outside of the country via the online Absher app, which even custodial mothers do not have access to.
- Women activists are imprisoned and separated from children and families: The Saudi monarchy must stop imprisoning peaceful critics and end the separation of Saudi families by releasing prisoners of conscience from jail. Reunite Samar Badawi with her children, and women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Naseema al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya al-Zahrani with their families.
Saudi Arabia’s discrimination isn’t limited to only Saudi women: The U.S. Department of State has previously reported on dozens of American women trapped against their will within Saudi Arabia. Even with full custody, foreign mothers do not have the right to exit Saudi Arabia with their children without the Saudi fathers’ permission.
While such systemic discrimination against mothers is appalling, it would take very little effort from the Saudi government to immediately eradicate such inequity. The Saudi governments inaction on women’s rights is not due to difficulty, but rather indifference. Women in Saudi Arabia have been waiting far too long for their rights to be recognized, however, in a Monarchy run entirely by men, self-preservation prevails.