Saudi women can't do anything without a male guardian's permission – including see the advert
Here is a laudable campaign against domestic violence in Saudi Arabia – the first ever in that conservative and repressive country. Powerful and affecting – a woman in a niqab with a badly bruised eye stares into the camera above the message "some things can't be covered" – it has been written about by western media outlets from the Daily Mail to the New Zealand Herald. However, the women most likely to be affected by the violence it depicts are unlikely to be able to see it without permission from the men who rules their lives.
For the kingdom still forbids women from travelling without their male guardians' permission or from driving a car. The internet, where these women could see the image, is heavily censored and any attempt to leave the country would lead to an automatic text message being sent to her male guardian.
In 2009, the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap report ranked Saudi Arabia 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity. In 2011 King Abdullah promised to give women the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections, but soon afterwards a female subject was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving a car. Women, restricted by law from social mixing, can't even work in underwear shops.
The ad is part of the "No More Abuse" campaign by the King Khalid Foundation, an official charity set up in memory of an earlier 1970s monarch. It is groundbreaking and should be welcomed – it aims to provide "legal protection for women and children from abuse in Saudi Arabia".
Saudis are being encouraged by the campaign to report cases of domestic abuse at locations around the kingdom including Madinah, Najran, Makkah and Riyadh. Saudi columnist Samar Fatany has said publicly that one in every six women is abused verbally, physically or emotionally every day, and 90% of the abusers are husbands or fathers.
According to Samira Al-Ghamdi, a Jeddah-based psychologist and founding member of the Society for Protecting the Family, the main problem lies in a social system that accepts the right of men to govern unconditionally.
The Arabic script at the bottom of the advert closely translates as "the tip of the iceberg". Seeing it could save lives.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013