#GameOverSaudi: ADHRB and ECDHR joint women’s rights campaign

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, together with the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, launches the #GameOverSaudi campaign, a concerted effort to address the women’s rights situation in Saudi Arabia amid the celebration of the Esports World Cup in the country.

The tournament, which arises as the largest global event of its kind, represents the last Saudi effort to divert the international community’s attention from its appalling human rights record. The question is: will you let this happen?

Human rights abuses should never be overlooked. The situation of Saudi women is particularly concerning, being that they are treated as second-class citizens subordinated to their male relatives. With this campaign, we want to bring to people’s attention the following facts:

In Saudi Arabia, every woman has a male guardian authorized to make critical decisions on her behalf (”male guardianship system”). Traditionally, a woman’s guardian is her father from birth and her husband once she is married.

In 2022, on International Women’s Day, Saudi Arabia passed a law that codified many of the widespread informal problematic practices inherent to the country’s male guardianship system.

Saudi Arabia’s 2022 Personal Status Law (PSL) entrenches a system of gender-based discrimination in matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance and includes provisions that facilitate domestic violence:

The idea that husbands are expected to protect and provide and wives, in turn, must obey, is enshrined in Saudi PSL.

Following the country’s longstanding practice, the 2022 PSL states that a woman must obtain a guardian’s permission to marry and for the marriage contract to be valid.

According to Articles 42 and 55 of PSL, a wife is obligated to “reasonably” obey her husband and a wife’s right to financial support shall be forfeited if she does not do so.

Saudi PSL asserts that in exchange for the husband’s maintenance during marriage -food, clothing, accommodation, and other essential needs-, the wife must submit to him. If she refuses to do so, the husband has the right to deny maintenance. Such provisions place women at risk of exploitation and abuse, which is not criminalized in Saudi law.

Men and women do not have the same ability to access divorce. In Saudi Arabia, upon separation, the mother is automatically granted custody of the child. However, the father remains the child’s legal guardian and, therefore, retains the power to make critical decisions about the child’s life.

Moreover, women campaigning for equal rights and the abolishment of the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia have been subjected to ongoing repression. Prominent women’s rights activists have been arbitrarily detained, banned from travel, and horrifically tortured or ill-treated in prison.

This is the reality that people who are not critically engaging with the Esports World Cup celebration in Saudi Arabia will support. If this makes you uncomfortable, join our campaign by saying #GameOverSaudi and sharing this information in the chatrooms that will broadcast the game live on YouTube and Twitch. You can also contribute to the campaign by repeating the same action in the chat section of YouTubers -big or small-, that you might know and who are covering or commenting on the tournament.

For women, #GameOverSaudi.