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Saudi Women Activists Demand End To 'Absolute' Male Control

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Saudi Arabian women activists have petitioned the country's consultative council to back a demand to curb the "absolute authority" of men over women in the kingdom, according to reports.

Activist Aziza Yousef said that "rights activists have petitioned the Shura (consultative) Council on the occasion of the International Women's Day [on March 8] demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women".

Laws in the kingdom enforcing restrictions on women “are not based on religious” teachings, said Yousef.

The women demanded "measures to protect [women's] rights," in their petition to the Shura Council, she said, according to AFP.

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Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians.

It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.

Authorities issued a stark warning to Saudi women last year after they defied the a ban on female drivers by taking part in a mass driving protest.

As part of the campaign, scores of women took to the streets, filming themselves driving and uploading videos onto YouTube.

saudi women

Three female members of the Shura Council presented a recommendation that women be given the right to drive in October last year, but the male-dominated 150-member assembly blocked the proposal.

Religious police in the Gulf Kingdom which is governed by Sharia Law only have lifted a ban on females riding motorbikes and bicycles – as long as they wear the full-length veil and are accompanied by a male relative.

Hopes were raised for human rights campaigners when earlier this year, Saudi suspended a notification programme that had been running since 2012, which alerted male guardians once women under their custody left the country, even if they were travelling together.