Ever so often, a case of a young woman’s exemplary bravery in the face of abuse is brought up in the international media, shedding a light on the importance of universal advocacy for human rights. Had the recent case of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the Saudi Arabian woman who fled her family, not been brought into the limelight by human rights activists across the world, it is very likely that this young woman would have been forcefully returned to her family, and might not have been alive right now.

The story is unfortunately not uncommon in its themes of gender and religious discrimination, but is unique due to the effect it could have on asylum laws. al-Qanun arrived at Bangkok’s main airport on a flight from Kuwait after running away from her family who she alleges subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. al-Qanun said she had planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if sent back yet Thai authorities stopped her, with a police officer commenting “it was unsafe for her without a male guardian”. After international outcry, al-Qanun has been taken into UNHCR’s care, and Australia is currently reviewing her asylum application.

Such unfortunate incidents allow us to review and assess the human rights violations our legal systems allow to occur. This case has shed light upon Australia’s refugee laws and has prompted a discussion of whether international asylum laws are sympathetic enough to gender and religious violence victims. This case has brought awareness to the guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia- which make women dependent on their male “guardian”. With the seemingly moderate new Crown Prince, it seemed that KSA was finally going to modernise- the implementation of guardianship laws suggests that reform of KSA’s human rights laws was a myth. We marvel at the Thai Authorities’ suggestion that women would be unsafe without a male guardian, when statistics overwhelmingly indicate that women are most likely to be assaulted or killed by a close family member.