Loujayn Alhokail: Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

Last fall, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Adelina Iftene kicked off what I hoped would be a series of guest posts featuring the work of  graduate and postdoctoral scholars at Osgoode who are engaging with feminist perspectives  (see Adelina’s post here).  In this second guest post, I’m very pleased to introduce PhD student Loujayn Alhokail, who studies the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia through a lens of legal consciousness.

-Dana

Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia it is legally required that Saudi women, of all ages, must have male guardians. Under this legal rule, women are not allowed to travel, continue their education, or have access to certain medical procedures without the consent of their male guardians. Theoretically, women are allowed to have access to most of their other rights that are recognized by the state. However, in reality, the guardianship rule is one part of a multi layered system of laws, policies, and traditions that, combined, puts most of women’s legally recognized rights under the discretion of their male guardians. Such system includes policies such as the ban on women’s driving and gender segregation.

The male guardianship system is historically supported by traditional interpretations of Islamic texts that Saudi Arabia recognizes. Saudi Arabia, as an Islamic state, gains its political legitimacy from enforcing Islamic law, and thus, according to traditional interpretations, enforcing male guardianship over women. The reality is that the male guardianship system is based on very narrow interpretations of Islamic texts. Furthermore, the existence of the male guardianship system causes many negative effects for women. Some Saudi women are unable to access some of their basic Islamic law rights that are recognized by the state because of cultural obstacles that are supported by this system. Such rights include access to marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Witnessing some of the recent changes that the Saudi state is leading in favor of women’s rights, and observing how the state is limited in its ability to enforce fundamental changes in favor of Saudi women’s rights, have encouraged me to analyze some of the historical and socio-political reasons underlying women’s disadvantaged status in the Kingdom. My current research focuses on the cultural context that leads to normalizing and legitimizing the male guardianship system through a legal consciousness lens. Most Saudi citizens shape their legal consciousness under a culture that explicitly supports the existence of the male guardianship system. In this research, I am particularly interested in the individual experiences that have shaped the legal consciousness of citizens who recognize the negative effects of this system. By analyzing these experiences, I am hoping to move the male guardianship system debate forward while aiming to unblock social change in favour of Saudi women’s rights.

Loujayn Alhokail 

I am currently a Ph.D. student at Osgoode Hall Law, York University. I earned my law degree from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. I have since then completed my LL.M. in law at Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University where my Thesis looked at the use of marriage contracts to hasten the wheel of change in favor of Saudi women’s rights. I am hoping to use the knowledge that I gain in Canada to help strengthen legal education in Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Film Screening Feb 11 @ Osgoode: “Whitewash” by Nadine Valcin

On February 11, the IFLS and the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) are joining forces to screen a short film by Osgoode artist in residence Nadine Valcin. Details below.

event poster - text included in post

“Whitewash”
A Film Screening by Nadine Valcin
Thursday, February 11, 2:30-4pm 
Osgoode ADR (Rm 1014)

A 5-minute video installation that examines slavery in Canada and its omission from the national narrative. The country prides itself as being a benevolent refuge where enslaved Africans who were brought to United States gained their freedom via the Underground Railroad. That powerful image overshadows the fact that slavery was legal in Canada for over 200 years under both French and British rule. Whitewash brings to light some of the slave families that were brought to what is now the province of Prince Edward Island by Loyalists and looks at how nine generations of descendants have assimilated to the point of leaving very few visible traces of their origins. Screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

Nadine Valcin is an award-winning bilingual producer, writer and director. Her factual and documentary work has been shown in Canada on CBC, CBC News Network, TVO, W, Artv, Réseau de l’information (RDI), Société Radio-Canada (SRC), TFO, as well TV One and the History Network in the United States. Valcin has been awarded numerous grants and prizes including the prestigious Chalmers Arts Fellowship and a Drama Prize from the National Screen Institute for the short film In Between.

 

CFR Book Launch Feb 8 @ York: “Chroniques d’une musulmane indignée” by Asmaa Ibnouzahir

Le Centre de recherches féministes présente / Centre for Feminist Research presents:

 lancement de livre / book launch

“Chroniques D’une Musulmane Indignée” 

Par/By Asmaa Ibnouzahir 

8 février, 2016 / February 8, 2016

16 h 00-17 h 30 / 4-5.30pm

Collège Universitaire Glendon, Salon Albert Tucker 3e étage, Pavillon York 317 /Chroniques Dune Musulmane Indignee poster

Glendon College, Room Albert Tucker 3rd floor, YH 317

Présenté par Dr. Amélie Barras / Introduced by Dr. Amélie Barras

Veuillez confirmer à / Please RSVP to juliapyr@yorku.ca by February 1 / au plus tard le 1er février, 2016

Asmaa Ibnouzahir partage un récit autobiographique racontant des défis qu’elle a relevés en tant que jeune immigrante musulmane d’origine marocaine arrivée au Québec en 1994. Elle présente également une analyse éclairante sur des questions qui reviennent souvent dans les médias québécois au sujet de l’islam, des femmes et de la société: les musulmans-es «modérés», les crimes «d’honneur», le foulard, le féminisme islamique et bien d’autres. Engagée dans les débats sociopolitiques qui ont traversé le Québec au cours de la dernière décennie, sur la religion, l’immigration et les valeurs québécoises, Asmaa Ibnouzahir livre un témoignage essentiel qui donne un accès sans précédent aux coulisses de ces débats.

Depuis une dizaine d’années, Asmaa Ibnouzahir est engagée dans la réflexion et les débats sociaux autour des droits de la personne, notamment sur les questions touchant autant à l’immigration et à la religion dans la sphère publique qu’au statut des femmes dans l’Islam. Elle a également voyagé et travaillé dans plus d’une quinzaine de pays en tant que spécialiste de la nutrition d’urgence humanitaire.

***

Asmaa Ibnouzahir shares an autobiography recounting the challenges she faced as a young Muslim Moroccan immigrant arriving in Quebec in 1994, as well as an illuminating analysis on issues that come up in the media about Islam, women and society: “moderate” Muslims, “honor” killings, headscarves, Islamic feminism, etc. Engaged in the Quebec sociopolitical debates related to these issues over the last decade, Asmaa Ibnouzahir offers an important testimony that gives unprecedented access to the corridors of these debates.

Asmaa Ibnouzahir is a feminist human rights activist who has been engaged for ten years in the social debates in Quebec on issues of immigration, religion and women. She has also worked in more than fifteen countries as a specialist in humanitarian emergency nutrition.

Co-parrainé par / Co-sponsored by: Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies and the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, York University.

Suzanne Bouclin @ Osgoode Feb 10: “Reforming Prisons, Reforming Women: Ann Vickers and Abortion Law”

event poster

On February 10, the IFLS and Law Arts Culture will be co-hosting the following talk by University of Ottawa Professor Suzanne Bouclin:

Reforming Prisons, Reforming Women: Ann Vickers and Abortion Law
Talk by Suzanne Bouclin of the University of Ottawa 
Wednesday February 10, 2016 
12:30-2pm
Rm 2027, Osgoode Hall (Keele campus) 

Please RSVP at bit.ly/osresearch, using the event code BOUCLIN.

Abstract:

Women in Prison (WIP) movies are a relatively obscure and often under-read body of films. The central theme of this talk is that many of these films provoke us to reconsider whether prisons for women should exist at all. I have argued elsewhere that WIP movies are a site of women’s legal subjectivity and agency and I am currently refining a theory of WIP movies’ generic conventions to further that assertion. The aim of my work is not to establish whether WIP films reveal anything about the actual conditions of incarcerated women. These films vary in their cultural verisimilitude. And while a particular film may hold considerable truth-value, it is often more fictionalized and mediated version of the prison experience that hold the most critical potential.  Thus I suggest an iconological standpoint in relation to WIP movies that takes seriously their potential to leave us feeling unsettled about prisons, about the women who are warehoused in them, and about the crimes with which these women have been accused.  I have generated a (non-linear and non-essentialist) taxonomy of WIP films that emerge during three moments in feminist theorizing and activism that can be loosely arranged as the first, second, and third waves. I conclude that this body of films – this genre – is a shifting and complex feminist jurisprudence. Individual films in inter-textual relationship with a broader body of films present women who negotiate formal and informal legal structures that frame and limit their autonomy and agency. Nevertheless, they also present women who refuse to accept ‘law’ that is externally imposed upon them or the legitimacy of the legal actors that enforce it – whether wardens, child and welfare services, medical practitioners. I examine the dialogical relationship between these representations of women in prison and the manner in which formalized legal institutions and official legal agents label particular women ‘criminals.’ Without a doubt, some WIP movies reproduce the gendered operations and assumptions of criminal law; yet, some do so while also challenging its institutions and apparatuses of power. Moreover, some exemplary WIPs (I highlight one in this talk) offer ways to imagine the violence of state/legal practices and the inhumanity of total institutions to suggest broader gender, race, and class injustices that render particular women more vulnerable to criminalization and incarceration.

The centerpiece of my discussion is the film Ann Vickers. Drawing on the critical methodology of law-and-literature and law-and-film studies, I will engage in a literary and legal analysis of the novel and the film Ann Vickers (1930) and especially how WIP movies’ generic law gets mapped on to the canonical (written) law. I focus on two modes and sites of law: the formal prohibition of abortion and the informal regulation of film’s content under the Production Code during a period of lax regulation. I will explore substantive legal questions around women’s suffrage and access to safe abortion. I will also grapple with jurisprudential questions around the nature of authority, inter-textual dialogue and precedent that emerge when engaging in inter-textual dialogue (here of a novel and its cinematic representation).

Suzanne Bouclin is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law (Programme de Common Law en Français). She writes and researches on law and poverty, feminist jurisprudence, law and popular culture, and the regulation of women’s bodies. She recently launched a new iteration of the Ticket Defence Program (TDP)a free mobile legal clinic that offers representation to the homeless and street-involved people who experience social profiling at the hands of police and by-law officers. Dr. Bouclin is also a recent recipient of the Ontario Early Researcher Award for a five-year project which explores the potential for furthering access to justice through new communications technologies.

Cunliffe Talk Follow Up: ReconciliationSyllabus blog on TRC Recommendation 28

In her powerful talk earlier this month about R v Barton and the death of Cindy Gladue, Professor Emma Cunliffe discussed the lack of cultural competency and respect for Indigenous lives shown by the lawyers involved in the case. She was later asked a question about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action regarding legal education. In her answer, she mentioned a recent blog post she had written on the subject, found here.

The blog she was talking about is called ReconciliationSyllabus. It was started by UVic law professors Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson last summer as “an invitation to law professors across Canada to gather together ideas about resources and pedagogies to support recommendation #28 of the TRC Calls to Action: the call for us to rethink both what and how we teach in our schools.” Here is a story about the blog’s origin.

The TRC Calls to Action that speak most directly to legal education read as follows:

  1. We call upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
  1. We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.

You can see all 94 Calls to Action here, and the entire TRC report can be found here.

Since the blog’s launch, Professor Cunliffe and several other Canadian law professors (many of a known feminist bent) have taken up the invitation to reflect on the TRC’s recommendations. Check it out here, if you haven’t already: https://reconciliationsyllabus.wordpress.com/about/.

Here are some further thoughts about the Calls to Action

from UVic Dean Jeremy Webber:

http://www.slaw.ca/2015/08/04/the-law-schools-and-the-future-of-indigenous-law-in-canada/

from Professors Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson:

http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/5620/TRC-offers-a-window-of-opportunity-for-legal-education.html

from Professor Lisa Kerr:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/law-schools-across-canada-debate-how-to-enact-trc-recommendations/article27775570/

Professor Cunliffe’s talk, and the question about the TRC serves as an important reminder not to let this conversation die. Only by carrying the momentum forward can the TRC’s Calls be lifted off the page and into action. Seems like we have a lot of work to do.