Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

End of guardianship marks steady progress

Saudi Arabia’s latest transformative steps signify more than travel and convenience

Women in Saudi Arabia will now be able to travel without permission. Reuters
Women in Saudi Arabia will now be able to travel without permission. Reuters

Slowly but surely, step by step, Saudi Arabia is treading the path laid out in its Vision 2030 plan. The end of guardianship, which means women over 21 will no longer require the permission of a male family member to travel or obtain a passport, is the latest in a series of reforms bestowing equal rights, freedoms and opportunities upon women. Husbands and wives are now also recognised as joint heads of the family, and labour laws have been changed to end discriminatory practices against women. It is hoped these changes will soon be followed by parity of pay, pledged by the Ministry for Labour and Social Development in January, becoming a nationwide reality.

It is just over a year since Saudi Arabia issued driving licences to women, granting them a previously unimaginable degree of independence. At the same time, rules requiring a guardian’s permission to study or hold a job were scrapped. Since then, a series of transformative reforms have been instigated. The whole of Saudi society stands to benefit from the latest changes, which go much further than merely allowing women to enjoy independent travel and tourism. More than half of all university graduates in Saudi Arabia are women. The end of guardianship will allow the country to make the best use of this largely untapped well of talent as it works to realise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan to accelerate economic development. As Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, says, the reforms show “confident steps towards development and modernisation”.

Rooted in the oldest traditions of Islam, the nation is to be congratulated for a determination to bring about change in a considered manner that will not alienate traditionalists, whose views carry weight in the deeply religious country. But as Reema Bandar Al Saud, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Washington, points out, we are witnessing history in the making, heralding positive changes that will have an impact for years to come.

Updated: August 3, 2019 08:10 PM

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