Saudi women get a new right; know what it is

Riyadh/Dammam: After the landmark reforms lifting restrictions on travelling without men’s permission came into effect, hundreds of Saudi women reportedly crossed into Bahrain on Monday unaccompanied. The new regulation came into force through an announcement by the General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) on its website on Monday.

Royal decrees ended the need for women to obtain permission of male guardians to travel or obtain passports. As reported by the Saudi Gazette, the new amendments in the Travel Documents Regulation allow a woman to apply for and obtain a passport without requiring the approval of her male guardian.

The move is part of expanded social reforms initiated by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. He also granted women the right to drive last year, as well as study at university, undergo surgery or get a job without male consent.

Under new guidelines that represent a further chipping away of exclusive male power in the conservative Islamic kingdom, Saudi mothers will be able to apply for passports for children in their custody and approve travel abroad.

According to Livemint, the changes, detailed on the website of Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports on Monday, spell out how a major policy change earlier this month — which allowed women over 21 to leave the country without a male relative’s permission from the end of August — will work in practice.

The new right was ensured after Saudi women’s rights activists campaigned for years against the kingdom’s guardianship system. Earlier women were dependent on their male relative typically a father or husband, but sometimes a brother or son. Now both men and women over the age of 21 can obtain passports and travel without a guardian’s approval.