A week after Britney Spears sent shockwaves around the world by recounting the conditions she has lived in for the past 13 years, a judge in Los Angeles rejected her request to remove her father from his guardianship. Although she has testified that under her father’s care, she has not been allowed to marry or make medical, professional, legal or financial decisions for herself, the courts have not yet awarded her Spears the freedom she asks for.
The legal grounds for Britney’s situation emerged in 2007, when her life was spiraling out of control due to mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. After locking herself in a bathroom with her sons, she was placed in involuntary psychiatric detention for 72 hours.
In January 2008, shortly after Britney’s 26th birthday, a Los Angeles judge issued an emergency order giving Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, temporary guardianship of his daughter. Nine months later, the judge made the guardianship permanent.
“My father and anyone involved in this guardianship, including my leadership, should be in jail,” Britney told court on June 23 as she described how her father refused to allow her to have a device removed. IUD birth control.
If any woman in the world can relate to Britney Spears’ struggle to free herself from her father’s rule, it is Saudi women’s rights activist Samar Badawi.
Samar Badawi is one of the main advocates for women in Saudi Arabia to obtain their basic rights and abolish the country’s male guardianship system (a guardianship that restricts the rights of all Saudi women). In 2008, after Samar escaped her father’s abuse by fleeing to a women’s shelter, her father accused her of disobedience under the country’s male guardianship system. After Samar missed certain court dates, an arrest warrant was issued against his arrest.
Like Britney Spears, Samar appealed to the courts to have his father removed as guardian. As her father refused to allow her to marry her boyfriend, she accused her father of violating Islamic law by forcibly keeping her single. But, when she appeared for trial in July 2010, she was taken into custody for 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 his release. A paternal uncle has been appointed his new male guardian.
But Samar continued to fight for women’s rights, and in July 2018 she was arrested in a crackdown by the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as name of MBS), against women who campaigned successfully for the right to drive. Samar remained in prison until she was finally released last week after serving her sentence.
While for Britney it is her father who controls her life, in Saudi Arabia, MBS is, de facto, the ultimate conservative of all Saudi women.
Just as Britney’s father tried to portray himself as a fiercely loving, devoted and loyal father who saved his daughter, Saudi Arabia embarked on a public relations campaign to portray itself as a modernizing nation in pursuit women’s rights. To this end, on August 1, 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that it would abolish part of its male guardianship system. However, Saudi women continue:
- need a male guardian;
- need the permission of their male guardian to get married;
- need to present a justification to a male judge to obtain a divorce (men are allowed to divorce without justification or court hearing);
- may be charged in court with disobedience to her male guardian or her husband;
- may be imprisoned in detention centers for disobedience and, once there, must obtain permission from their guardian, husband or sponsor to be released;
- face enormous discrimination when it comes to child custody and laws regarding single mothers. In court cases, a woman’s testimony is only worth half that of a man’s, and women can lose custody for not dressing modestly enough, for working full time, or for remarrying;
- face the constant threat of abuse and violence, while men who abuse or even kill women experience little or no legal repercussions.
Britney Spears’ case is not yet over and new court rulings are expected in the weeks and months to come. Her advocates say now, more than ever, it is essential to continue campaigning for Britney’s freedom. “He’s so much taller than Britney,” activist #FreeBritney said Olivas juniors to Time Magazine, referring to the fact that there are approximately 1.5 million adults in the United States – mostly seniors and people with disabilities – in some form of guardianship or guardianship. A review of Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on women shows that Britney’s case should also be seen from an international perspective. As we work to free Britney, we should also work to free Samar Badawi and all Saudi women.