Women in Saudi Arabia can now travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission, royal decrees say.
The new rule announced on Friday allows women over the age of 21 to apply for a passport without authorisation, putting them on an equal footing to men.
Women are also being given the right to register births, marriage or divorce.
Until now husbands, fathers and other male relatives of women had the authority to make critical decisions about women including permission to obtain or renew a passport and exit the country.
The kingdom has recently eased other long-standing social restrictions on women, though campaigners say more remains to be done for women’s rights.
Saudi Arabia has increasingly come under the spotlight over its treatment of its female citizens, an issue highlighted by several high-profile cases of Saudi women seeking asylum abroad.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to relax prohibitions on women, including lifting a driving ban last year, in a bid to open up the conservative kingdom.
Many Saudi women have taken to Twitter to celebrate the move, with prominent influencer and talk show host Muna AbuSulayman tweeted:
It is 1 am in #NYC
And I can't sleep.
The changes that occurred today in setting سن الرشد the age of adulthood for women and men at 21 is so much more than lifting the travel permission.
It signals full equality in the eye of the law. It signals what modern Sharia is capable of
— Muna AbuSulayman منى (@abusulayman) August 2, 2019
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.
However, several leading women’s rights activists who had campaigned for the right to drive or win equal rights to men have faced government crackdown over the past year. Also, there have been several high profile cases of teenagers and women seeking asylum in countries citing claims of gender oppression.
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%.
Outside the Kingdom experts say that such moves would help the Crown Prince refurbish his image which tarnished after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
Source : Various