By: CAITLIN HART
For a country where it is illegal for women to drive, an advertising campaign against domestic violence is a positive step forward for the notably conservative country. Created by the King Khalid Foundation of Saudi Arabia this May, the campaign is titled “No More Abuse.”
The King Khalid Foundation is named after a former King of Saudi Arabia, who ruled from 1975 to 1982. During his reign, Khalid was noted for his dedication to bettering the lives of Saudis. The foundation was created in Khalid’s memory and is currently run by members of his family.
The King Khalid Foundation’s website showcases the ad and states that it’s goal is to “create awareness and fight this phenomena against women.” The site also provides a list of contacts, such as support centers, for victims of abuse.
The country of Saudi Arabia is slow-moving when it comes to women’s rights. In 2011, King Abdullah announced that women would be given the right to vote and run in local elections by 2015. Under Sharia law, women are also required to have a male guardian who hold rights over the woman.
Saudi women require the accompaniment or permission of a male guardian to carry out many tasks, including receiving medical procedures. There are currently no laws against violence towards women, and offenses such as marital rape are not punishable by law.
Saudi activists for women’s rights are often punished and sentenced to serve jail time, as in the case of Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Ayuni shows. Both women were sentenced to 10 months in prison for speaking out against misogynist laws and for helping another woman escape a potentially abusive relationship.
Both women were also strong opponents of the guardian system. To show her dismay, Al-Huwaider posted videos of herself driving on public highways without a male guardian.
But many women in Saudi Arabia are still attached to the idea of having a guardian as the campaign “My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me” demonstrates. The campaign supports the abolition of the guardian system and the “Western influence,” seeking to maintain the kingdom’s conservative values.
While the “No More Abuse” campaign is a step forward, more legislation is needed to better protect women in Saudi Arabia. The desire for a more just society exists, and women are beginning to speak up against misogynist laws.