Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Saudi Arabia Lifts Travel Restrictions on Women, Grants Them Greater Control

Saudi Arabia Lifts Travel Restrictions on  Women, Grants Them Greater Control

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia has allowed adult women to travel without permission and granted them more control over family matters, further eroding a heavily criticized male guardianship system at a time of heightened scrutiny over its human rights record.
A series of royal decrees published by the official gazette on Friday stipulated that a Saudi passport should be issued to any citizen who applies for it and that any person above the age of 21 does not need permission to travel.
The amendments to regulations also grant women for the first time the right to register child birth, marriage or divorce and to be issued official family documents and be eligible as a guardian to children who are minors.
Riyadh has long endured international censure over the status of women, who rights groups say are often treated as second-class citizens under rules requiring them to get the consent of a male guardian for important decisions throughout their entire lives, regardless of age.
Muna AbuSulayman, a prominent Saudi influencer and a former talk show host, took to Twitter along with thousands of Saudi women to celebrate what many described as a new era.
“A generation growing up completely free and equal to their brothers,” she said, referring to the freedom to travel.
The kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has eased social restrictions, such as lifting a driving ban for women last year, as part of a push to open up the conservative Muslim kingdom and transform the economy.
Last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents caused a global outcry, however, and the Gulf Arab state has been widely criticized for the arrest and alleged torture of nearly a dozen women activists.
Several high-profile cases of young women seeking asylum abroad on claims of gender-based repression have added further pressure on Riyadh over the male guardian system.
Guardianship’s status between law and custom makes it a thorny issue for Prince Mohammed, who indicated last year he favored ending the system but stopped short of endorsing its annulment.
Other parts of the system remain intact. Women still need permission from a male relative to marry or live on their own.
A hashtag calling for marriage without a guardian’s consent was among the top trending along with a hashtag thanking the crown prince and another touting the new travel rules. (Reuters)