All Saudi women require male permission to travel out of the country – whether they are single or married – and they must be accompanied by a male family member or their husband.
Saudi Arabia’s Shura council, a legislative body that advises the king on important issues, has supported a historic proposal that would allow women to get passports and travel without needing the permission of a male guardian.
Arabia Business reports the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia has given a go-ahead to amendments to travel laws that could consequently put an end to long-time discrimination against women — or stop just short, depending on how the regulations are implemented.
Under the current system, all Saudi women, single or married, require male permission to travel abroad and they must be accompanied by a male blood-relation or husband.
However, the new proposals, if adopted, would enable any woman in Saudi Arabia aged 18 or over to apply for a passport. Whether she’d still be allowed to go out of the country, though, on her own wasn’t clarified.
Citing Arabic daily Al Madinah, Arabian Business states the changes “seek to bring the passport issuance procedures up to date with global standards adopted by many advanced countries.”
“Saudi women will be empowered to get their own travel documents themselves and feel equality with Saudi men. All obstacles caused by the guardianship system and the difficulties some male guardians impose on women will be eliminated forever.”
And while the amendments would move the country “a step closer to granting Saudi women full citizenship rights,” the newspaper added, the Shura council noted measures must be taken to avoid jeopardizing “the national security of the country.”
A couple of other positive changes have come about ever since King Salman ascended to the throne last year.
For instance, the Saudi government, for the first time in history, permitted women to run and vote in last December’s municipal elections. In the same month, the Interior Ministry announced family identity cards for divorced women and widows, a move that made it easier for them to access legal records, authorize medical care and register children in schools without being dependent on a male guardian.
That said, Saudi women are still not allowed to drive cars and are forced to cover themselves from head to toe in public, which means the Gulf kingdom still has a long way to go as far as women’s rights are concerned.