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In a Progressive Move, Saudia Arabia Allows Women to Travel Without a Male Guardian’s Approval

Anyone above the age of 21 can apply for a passport and citizenship.

It’s 2019, and women in several parts of the world are still fighting for their basic rights. While their progress has been slow, their struggles have not been futile. Recently, Saudi Arabia abolished its long-standing rule that women need the permission of a male guardian to travel. Other changes will allow women to apply for passports, register their marriage, divorce or child’s birth, and be issued official family documents. Women will also be appointed as legal guardians of their children.

 

These changes will ease up a lot of hurdles faced by Saudi women. For example, women don’t have to seek permission from their fathers or brothers to study abroad. In the past, several women from the country have tried to flee from their families and seek asylum in first-world countries. According to TIME, women had to hack into their father’s phones to alter change settings in a government app to allow themselves permission to leave the country. Now thanks to this change, they won’t have to rely on the goodwill of their male relatives to move freely within and outside the country or take ownership of their children.

 

Earlier, Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving, and changed rules that required women to seek consent from a male guardian to study at university, undergo surgery, or apply for jobs.

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The policy change has been praised by activists, but a lot remains to be changed in the country, which is ruled by Mohammed bin Salman. Even now, women require male consent to exit prison, leave a domestic abuse shelter, or even marry. Additionally, they can’t pass on their citizenship to children or give their children the consent to marry. Prince Mohammed is also criticised for his treatment of female activists and voices of dissent in the country. Recently, journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at Saudi consulate in Istanbul drew criticism from all across the world and humanitarian watchdogs.

The changes announced on August 2nd are said to be implemented by the end of the month. So, whether the rules will be executed and adopted by the government remains to be seen.