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And as guardians of female relatives themselves, the judges usually display the same cultural belief in female inferiority as most Saudi men.“Because there are no laws supporting women, the culture and customs overcome everything and when things go to court it’s in the hands of the judge, who also is biased against women,” said Al Duwaisi.He never sent money, although Sara cares for their daughter and her disabled mother-in-law.The Saudi government's social welfare department would not assist her financially, because she was still legally married and therefore remained her husband’s legal responsibility. I’m not important.” Sara’s predicament is all too familiar to Saudi women who live under their country’s guardianship system, which requires all females to be legally controlled their entire lives by a male guardian.But if a woman has a domineering or physically abusive guardian, her life can be hellish.“That’s the problem, it all depends on luck,” said Rasha Al Duwaisi, a supporter of women’s rights in Riyadh.There are no female judges in the kingdom and until last year, female lawyers were denied licenses to practice, so they could not appear in court.Most judges require women to wear full-face veils in court, and according to “Perpetual Minors,” do not accept women’s testimony in criminal cases.
Women have reported being beaten or locked in their rooms for weeks by fathers, husbands or brothers as punishment for complaining about not being able to marry, work or get a higher education.“A 13-year-old boy as the guardian of an old woman?Really, it’s very humiliating,” said a twenty-something college student in Jeddah.“I feel neglected, like an old shoe,” said Sara, who resides in a slum area of Jeddah and makes a meager living by reselling air conditioning units she purchases on installments. Because its implementation depends on a guardian’s personality, this system creates conditions for widespread abuse.And women victimized by male guardians usually find little relief or protection from courts in a country with a legal system dominated by religiously conservative male judges.