Saudi Arabia’s new laws, issued early on Friday, will allow women to travel without the approval of a male guardian, bringing to end a decades-old controversial policy, AP reported.
In a series of royal decrees, Saudi Arabia announced that a Saudi passport should be issued to any citizen who applies for it and that any person who is above 21 years of age will not need permission to travel. Women were also granted the right to register child births, marriages and divorces. They will be issued official family documents and be eligible as a guardian to minor children.
The changes followed years of campaigning by rights activists who said women lived as second-class citizens in the country. Male guardians – either a husband, father or other male relatives – had arbitrary control over women.
The new decrees grant women “greater autonomy and mobility”, Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington told AFP. “If fully implemented, [this is] a big step in letting adult Saudi women take control of their own lives,” Diwan added.
Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, there have been a slew of changes in Saudi Arabia’s approach to women over the past few years. In June 2018, in a landmark decision, the kingdom removed the ban on women drivers. Cinemas opened in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 35 years in April 2018 after the kingdom lifted its ban on movie theatres in December 2017. The country also allowed women into sports stadiums from 2018.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had also vowed to focus on eradicating extremism within his kingdom and a return to “moderate Islam”. He said Saudi Arabia was “not like this in the past”. “We will eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon,” he had said. “We represent the moderate teachings and principles of Islam.”