Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



Male guardianship, a societal custom derived from Islamic law, renders women in Saudi Arabia second class citizens. The country’s preservation of male guardianship has broken its agreement to adhere to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the leading international women’s rights treaty. Throughout the past decade the country’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman al Saud (“MbS”), has issued rulings that work to slowly dismantle the apparatus of male guardianship. These developments have been both meaningful and restrained; MbS attempts to tread lightly into human rights reforms to garner the support of western allies, without angering politically powerful conservative religious clerics at home. Due to a lack of enforcement and rampant discrimination in the legal system, women’s ability to access these rights remain greatly dependent on the politics and culture of their of their family and community. Dissidents and activists are silenced when they attempt to speak out on the reality of the situation. Though a legislature is in place, legal and political power is dominated by the absolute monarchy, providing MbS with sole power to move the needle. This note argues that, in order to obtain the global posture MbS seeks for Saudi Arabia, he can, and must adhere to CEDAW by fully dismantling the system of male guardianship, thereby ceasing the legal and cultural subjugation of women.