In a world which is striving to be inclusive, Saudi Arabia sits on the periphery trying to fit in but still bows before archaic laws like the enduring male guardianship system. According to the law Saudi women are required to obtain a male guardian’s approval before making any decision for themselves. They are robbed of the right to decide their own future. Essential activities like applying for a passport, travelling outside the country, getting married or even leaving to study abroad on a government scholarship, requires a males relatives approval. This primitive law has reduced Saudi women to legal minors, who are not capable of making their own decisions. The Human Rights Watch in 2017 called Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system the most “significant impediment to realizing women’s rights in the country.”Even though the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has tried to portray himself as a reformer by passing a law in 2017 that allowed women to drive, his efforts were seen as nothing but a PR stunt. Weeks before the ban was lifted the Saudi authorities began a crackdown on the budding women’s rights movement within the country, in which activists like Badawi were detained. Moreover, men who were vocal supporters of female emancipation were booked under serious made-up charges.Women in the country are left at the mercy of their male relatives and any dissenters are harshly punished to suppress the call for equal rights for all. Over the years, a lot of cases have cropped up where Saudi women fleeing from abuse or forced marriages were booked under the charge of ‘disobedience’ filed by their male guardians. Activists like Badawi and Mariam al-Otaibi were imprisoned on these charges as well, serving 7 and 3 months respectively. Now, amid the recent furore created by Rahaf al-Qunun’s ordeal, once again Saudi women clamour to reinstate themselves as full citizens of the country with the right to decide their own future. An Arabic-language hashtag meaning “end guardianship laws or else we will all migrate” has gained traction on Twitter.If the Crown Prince wants to be a reformer in actuality, now is his chance. He can start by abolishing the patriarchal male guardianship law, and make women autonomous. As a self proclaimed progressive he needs to realise the freedom of women is akin to the freedom of all. * Published in Daily Times, January 27th 2019.