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Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is seen in an undated photo. (Reuters)

This week, some of the most powerful women from around the world attended the virtual Women20 (W20) conference, part of the Group of 20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia. But who was missing? For one, my sister Loujain al-Hathloul, an award-winning women’s rights activist, who is in a maximum-security prison cell only 25 miles from Riyadh.

In recent years, my sister was one of the only Saudi women who dared to attend international conferences outside of the kingdom to discuss the truth about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. She spoke out about the injustice of the repressive patriarchal systems in the kingdom, which grant men almost total superiority before the law and give them the absolute right to guardianship over their wives and children.…  Seguir leyendo »

As of this month, women in Saudi Arabia will be informed by text if their husbands are divorcing them. Prior to this technological update, husbands could divorce their wives without even notifying them. On its website, the Saudi Ministry of Justice claims that the measure will protect "the rights of female clients."

However, the text is nothing but a symbolic technological advancement to mask a flourishing system that reinforces men's ownership of women.

Even with a text notification, Saudi women's marital rights remain largely the same: effectively non-existent. Knowledge of the divorce does not ensure the right to alimony or affect custody of children.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two of Saudi Arabia’s leading activists for women’s rights were recently sentenced to 10 months in prison — after which they will have their passports withdrawn for two years — for trying to take food to a battered spouse who had been locked in her home with her three young children without provisions. This vindictive, trumped-up case is a symptom of the kingdom’s regression on human rights. Several monarchies in the Persian Gulf have reacted to the Arab Spring by tightening their grip.

In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, perhaps under the impetus of the shock of that event, Saudi Arabia experienced small but perceptible measures of liberalization.…  Seguir leyendo »