Saudi Arabia is loosening restrictions on women
In a recent development, Saudi Arabia has decided to allow all its citizens to travel freely. This marks the end of a guardianship policy which restricted travel for women. New laws are being implemented which will allow women to travel without the permission of a male guardian. These laws will go into effect by the end of the month.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the topic of many heated debates over their treatment of women. The legal system in place has treated adult women like children. It has forced adult women to obtain a man’s consent to apply for a passport or travel abroad.
In Saudi Arabia it is common for a woman’s male guardian to be her husband or her father. There are even cases where a woman’s male guardian has been her son.
Many Saudis took to Twitter to celebrate the changes. Memes are being posted which depict people making a run for the airport with luggage. However, not everyone is happy as some people posted clips of Saudi clerics sharing their views of why the guardianship laws are good for the country.
Other new changes allow women to register a marriage, child’s birth, divorce, and even get official family documents. All these changes will make it easier for Saudi women to have a national identity and put their children in schools. Additionally, women will now be allowed to be the legal guardians of their children. In the past, only men enjoyed this right.
Historical day for women in Saudi Arabia. Saudi women have been granted the right to issue/renew their passport and travel outside Saudi without the need for a male guardian's permission.
— نُهى (@NuhaAlbadi) August 1, 2019
While this news is a victory for Saudi Arabia, the country still has a long way to go. There are rules in place which will not let a woman leave prison without the consent of a man. In addition to this, women will not be able to marry, leave a domestic shelter, give their children consent to marry, and pass on citizenship without a man’s consent.
Human Rights Watch has done an extensive study of the male guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia in 2016. They’ve dubbed it as a “system that was ripe for abuse.” King Salman and his Cabinet approved the new rules. These rules will let all citizens apply for a Saudi passport by themselves and let any person over the age of 21 and older go abroad without any consent required.
Previously, preachers backed by the country told women they should not travel alone for more than a night, as per Islamic practices. Approximately 93% of Saudis are Muslim. As the official state religion, Islam has a strong influence on life in the country.