#FreeBritney and all Saudi women too

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A week after Britney Spears shocked the world by sharing the conditions she’d lived in for the past 13 years, a Los Angeles judge denied her request to remove her father from her conservatory class. Although she testified that under her father’s care she would not be allowed to marry or make any medical, professional, legal or financial decisions, the courts have not yet granted Britney the freedom she demands.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that it would abolish part of its guardianship system for men. However, Saudi women still face numerous limitations in their ability to live their lives as they please.

The legal basis for Britney’s situation emerged in 2007 when her life quickly spiraled out of control due to mental health problems and drug and alcohol abuse. After locking herself in a bathroom with her sons, she was involuntarily locked in the mental hospital for 72 hours.

In January 2008, shortly after Britney’s 26th birthday, an LA judge issued an emergency ordinance placing Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, in temporary custody of his daughter. Nine months later, the judge made the conservatory permanent.

“My father and everyone involved in this conservatory organization, including my management,” should be in jail, “Britney said on Wednesday the 23rd Body.

If any woman can understand Britney’s struggle to be liberated from her father’s rule, it is the Saudi suffragette Samar Badawi.

Samar Badawi. Photo: Alchetron.

Samar Badawi is a leading advocate for women in Saudi Arabia to gain their basic rights and abolish the country’s male guardianship system (a conservatory that restricts the rights of all Saudi women). After Samar escaped her father’s abuse in 2008 by fleeing to a women’s shelter, her father accused her of disobedience under the country’s male guardianship system. After Samar missed several court dates, an arrest warrant was issued against her.

Like Britney, Samar appealed to the courts to remove her father from her male guardian / restorer. Since her father refused to marry her boyfriend, she accused her father of breaking Islamic law by forcibly keeping her married. But when she appeared for trial in July 2010, she was taken into custody on the arrest warrant against her.

Human rights activists and organizations around the world campaigned for Samar, and on October 25, 2010, Governor Khalid bin Faisal ordered her release. A paternal uncle has been appointed her new male guardian.

But Samar continued to fight for women’s rights and was arrested in July 2018 as part of a raid by the Saudi de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) against women who had successfully campaigned for the right of Saudi women to drive. Samar remained in prison until she was finally released on July 27, 2021 after serving her sentence.

While for Britney her father is in control of her life, in Saudi Arabia the ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is de facto the ultimate conservator of all Saudi women.

Just as Britney’s father tried to portray himself as simply an extremely loving, devoted and loyal father who saved his daughter, Saudi Arabia launched a public relations campaign to present itself as a modernizing nation in pursuit of women’s rights. To this end, Saudi Arabia announced on August 1, 2019 that it would abolish part of its guardianship system for men.

  • Need a male guardian;
  • Need permission from your male guardian to get married;
  • Need to give reasons to a male judge in order to grant a divorce (men may divorce without reason or a court hearing);
  • May be charged in court for disobedience to her male guardian or husband;
  • Can be locked in detention centers for disobedience. There, women must seek permission from their male guardian, husband or sponsor to be released;
  • They face tremendous discrimination in terms of custody and laws regarding unmarried mothers. In legal proceedings, a woman’s testimony is only half as valuable as a man’s; Women can lose custody if they don’t dress modestly, work full-time, or remarry;
  • Face abuse and violence while men who abuse or even kill women face little or no legal ramifications.

Britney’s case is still ongoing and new court rulings are expected in the coming weeks and months. Its proponents say it is now more important than ever to keep advocating for Britney’s freedom. “This is so much bigger than just Britney,” said #FreeBritney activist Junior Olivas to time Magazines relating to the fact that in the US there are approximately 1.5 million adults – mostly seniors and people with disabilities – under some sort of supervision or guardianship. A look at Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on women shows that Britney’s case should also be viewed through an international lens. As we work to free Britney, we should also work to free Samar Badawi and all Saudi women.

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