SAUDI Arabia on Friday published new laws that loosen restrictions, allowing all citizens — women and men alike —above 21 years of age to apply for a passport and travel freely.
The new policies bring an end to a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women’s freedom of movement.
The kingdom’s legal system has long been criticized because it treated adult women as minors, requiring they have a man’s consent to obtain a passport or travel abroad. Often a woman’s male guardian is her father or husband and in some cases a woman’s son.
Other changes issued in the decrees allow women to register a marriage, divorce or a child’s birth, and obtain official family documents, which could ease hurdles women face in obtaining a national identity card and enrolling their children in school.
Reema Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States on Tweeter hailed the move as”s holistic approach to gender equality that will unquestionably create real change for the Saudi women.”
I am elated to confirm that KSA will be enacting amendments to its labor and civil laws that are designed to elevate the status of Saudi women within our society, including granting them the right to apply for passports and travel independently. 1/4
— Reema Bandar Al-Saud (@rbalsaud) August 2, 2019
Women are now also allowed to be legal guardians of their children, a right previously held only by men.
However, still in place, however, are rules that require male consent for a woman to leave prison, exit a domestic abuse shelter or marry. Women, unlike men, still cannot pass on citizenship to their children and cannot provide consent for their children to marry.
Amnesty International said Friday a lot remains to be done for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia but that the new laws could ease the guardianship system. Guardianship laws have “been a stifling system in the daily lives of women in Saudi Arabia,” said Lynn Malouf, Mideast’s research director at Amnesty.
These reforms really are a testament to the work of the brave activism and the suffering and the ordeals, Saudi women and men fought for in their calls for reform, she said.
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has been hailed for loosening social restrictions at the heart of his economic transformation plan for Saudi Arabia, which relies on diversifying away from oil and attracting foreign investment especially after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist in the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October which have brought lots of international condemnation to the kingdom.