Saudi women no longer need permission of male guardian to travel

The legal system previously required women to have a man’s consent to obtain a passport or travel abroad. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia published new laws early Friday that loosen restrictions on women by allowing any citizen to apply for a passport and travel freely.

The legal system previously required women to have a man’s consent to obtain a passport or travel abroad.

The changes were widely celebrated by Saudis on Twitter, including posting memes showing people dashing to the airport with luggage and others hailing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is behind these moves.

Other changes issued in the decrees allow women to register a marriage, divorce, or child’s birth and to be issued official family documents. It also stipulates that a father or mother can be legal guardians of children.

For women, being able to obtain family documents could facilitate the process of obtaining a national identity card and enrolling their children in school.

Still in place, however, are rules that require male consent for a woman to marry. Women, unlike men, still cannot pass on citizenship to their children and cannot provide consent for their children to marry.

The new rules, approved by King Salman and his Cabinet, allow any person 21 and older to travel abroad without prior consent and any citizen to apply for a Saudi passport on their own.

The decrees, issued Wednesday, were made public before dawn Friday in the kingdom’s official weekly Um al-Qura gazette. It wasn’t clear if the new rules go into effect immediately.

A number of sweeping changes have been promoted by the Crown Prince as he drives an ambitious economic reform plan that encourages more women to enter the workforce. He was behind lifting the ban on women driving last year, loosening rules on gender segregation, and bringing concerts and movie theaters to the country.

As noted by the Saudi newspaper Arab News, the decrees outlining changes to travel are written in gender-neutral language removing prior restrictions specific to women, rather than outright stating that women no longer need male consent.

News of the changes had been teased in state-linked Saudi media for weeks, possibly to ready the public and to gauge reaction.

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Last Update: 20:18 KSA 23:18 - GMT 20:18
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