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The male guardianship system remains largely in place, hindering and in some cases nullifying the efficacy of these reforms.

It doesn’t make any sense.” Every Saudi woman, regardless of her economic or social class, is adversely affected by guardianship policies.

Until the guardianship system is removed entirely, Saudi Arabia will remain in violation of its human rights obligations and unable to realize its Vision 2030, the country’s “vision for the future,” that declares women—half of the country’s population—to be a “great asset” whose talents will be developed for the good of the country’s society and economy.

Saudi Arabia has made a series of limited changes over the last 10 years to ease restrictions on women.

Notable examples include allowing women to participate in the country’s limited political space, actively encouraging women to enter the labor market, and taking steps to better respond to domestic violence.

In the end, only 21 women were elected to the municipal councils out of 2,106 contested seats.

Municipal councils themselves have limited authority and, in January 2016, the government decreed council meetings would be sex segregated—women councilors must participate via video link.

Following the announcement, a woman councilor stepped down.

The guardianship system also impacts women’s ability to seek work inside Saudi Arabia and to pursue opportunities abroad that might advance their careers.

The elections were a significant, symbolic victory for women, particularly as many women had campaigned for this right for more than a decade.

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