A Giant Leap for Saudi Women: In a first, women allowed to travel without male guardian
Women in Saudi Arabia will now be allowed to obtain passports and travel abroad without a male ‘guardian’ to accompany them, according to a change in the law published on Friday
Riyadh: Women in Saudi Arabia will now be allowed to obtain passports and travel abroad without a male 'guardian' to accompany them, according to a change in the law published on Friday ending a long-standing practice in the kingdom that has drawn international criticism.
The change in the law allows women over the age of 21 to apply for a passport without a male sponsor and to leave Saudi Arabia unaccompanied. It was not immediately clear when the change would take effect.
"A passport will be granted to any Saudi national who submits an application," the ruling, published in the government's official gazette, said. The pro-government Saudi Gazette newspaper described the decision "one giant leap for Saudi women."
The changes are part of a set of decrees that also allow women for the first time to register a marriage, divorce or the birth of a child and to obtain family documents — a move that would make it easier for them to obtain identity cards or enrol children in school.
The decision follows the high-profile case in January of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who barricaded herself in a Bangkok hotel room to prevent her family from returning her to Saudi Arabia. She was eventually granted asylum in Canada.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been undergoing a gradual liberalization under crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. However, despite his easing of restrictions, MBS, as he is popularly known, has shown an unwillingness to tolerate dissent.
Western intelligence agencies have concluded that he ordered the gruesome killing and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an incident that sparked international outrage.
The crown has denied any involvement.Other Muslim countries, however, do not have similar restrictions on women's travel.