Women in Saudi Arabia can now travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission, royal decrees say.
The new rule announced on Friday (02.08.19) allows women over the age of 21 to apply for a passport without authorization, putting them on an equal footing to men. Women are also being granted the right to register childbirth, marriage or divorce.
The decision as reported by BBC, follows a series of high profile attempts by women to escape abroad from the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has long come under scrutiny over its treatment of women in the kingdom, with activists saying they are often treated as second-class citizens.
The de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to ease social restrictions on women, including lifting a driving ban last year, in a bid to open up the conservative kingdom.
Saudi’s male guardianship system gives husbands, fathers and other male relatives the authority to make critical decisions about women.
Until now, this has meant women there were required to seek those relatives’ permission to obtain or renew a passport and exit the country.
Many Saudi women have taken to Twitter to celebrate the move, with prominent influencer and talk show host Muna Abu Sulayman tweeting: “A generation growing up completely free and equal to their brothers.”
Some conservatives in the country have reacted negatively to the changes, with one woman telling Reuters news agency: “Imagine if your girls grow up and leave you and don’t return, would you be happy?”
Despite the latest reforms, other parts of the guardianship system remain in place. These include women requiring permission from a male relative to marry or live on their own, as well as leave prison if they have been detained. They still cannot pass on citizenship to their children, nor can they provide consent for their children to marry.
In a bid to open up the country, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a plan in 2016 to transform the economy by 2030, with the aim of increasing women’s participation in the workforce to 30% from 22%.