Saudi Arabia has ruled a royal decree saying that women are finally allowed to hold passports and travel independently without a male guardian’s permission
The new rule that says women over the age of 21 are allowed to apply for a passport without authorization from a male guardian was announced today, this puts them on an equal footing to men ending a long-standing and controversial guardianship policy that requires male consent for a woman to travel or carry a passport.
Moreover, they also get the right to register births, marriage or divorce, as well as cover employment regulations that expand work opportunities for women. Under the new rule, all citizens have the right to work without facing any discrimination based on gender, disability or age.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently started focusing on easing long-standing social restrictions on women since it has come under the spotlight over its treatment of women – an issue brought to the attention of the world by several high-profile cases of Saudi women seeking asylum abroad. Saudi women fleeing domestic abuse and the guardianship system have occasionally drew international attention to their plight, being dubbed “runaways” for escaping the kingdom and seeking asylum abroad.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, is keen on easing down prohibitions on its female citizens in a bid to open up the conservative kingdom, having a plan to transform the economy by 2030, with the aim of increasing women’s participation in the workforce to 30% from 22%. The prince also lifted a driving ban last year, however, clashing with that decision and to the recent ones related to travel, comes the decision to put a number of women’s rights activists on trial in recent months.
Even so, there are still some parts of the guardianship system that remain in place, including women requiring permission from a male relative to marry or live on their own, as well as leave prison if they have been detained. Also, they still cannot pass on citizenship to their children, nor can they provide consent for their children to marry.