[JURIST] The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [official website] Friday called for Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archive] to abolish laws that give men complete guardianship over women. Under current Saudi law, women have few or no rights as regards marriage, divorce, child custody, and property ownership. The committee also urged Saudi Arabia to outlaw polygamy, which it said is by its very nature counter to gender equality. The committee's experts said that Sharia law [CFR backgrounder], on which Saudi Arabia's legal system is based, should not supersede the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [text], which Saudi Arabia signed in 2000. Saudi officials have denied that Saudi laws discriminate against women.
The committee's statement follows a November case in which a 20-year old gang-rape victim was sentenced to 90 lashes and six months in prison [NY Times report] for having been in the presence of a man who was not a relative when the attack occurred. King Abdullah pardoned the woman in December, but the incident sparked worldwide outrage over Saudi laws and demands for reform. Reuters has more.