Saudi bans women from hospital visits without male guardians

Published:  14 Feb at 6 PM
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Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars has banned women from visits to medical clinics or hospitals unless they are accompanied by a male guardian.

The new rule was issued by the kingdom’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and followed an edict by the council prohibiting women being seen by male doctors unless a male guardian was present. According to Qais al Mubarak, Islam does not permit the practice and women are prohibited from exposing their bodies to male doctors, except during medical emergencies.

In Islam, only next of kin such as husbands, sons, grandsons, fathers, brothers or uncles can be male guardians, with the new rule leaving women without male relatives in danger of not being able to get medical help. Council members also issued orders to workers at a nutrition centre not to admit women coming for their weekly visits without male guardians.

Many women are in opposition to the move, stating that their male guardians are not able to accompany them regularly as they have work and travel commitments. Al Mubarak also stated that women’s medical examinations can now only be carried out by male doctors if a female practitioner is unavailable, adding that a male guardian must also be present.

Private hospitals in the kingdom will find it easier to deal with the new law, according to one owner, who said that most of his patients already brought their guardians with them. However, one local beauty clinic which offers dermatological treatments said that his female patients would feel uncomfortable with the presence of men, and is refusing to insist on male guardians until an official communication from the ministry is received.
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