Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 October 2019

Saudi Arabia gives women full control over childbirth procedures

Women no longer need the consent of male guardians

Previous regulations required Saudi women to obtain signed approval from their male guardians. AFP Photo
Previous regulations required Saudi women to obtain signed approval from their male guardians. AFP Photo

Pregnant women in Saudi Arabia are no longer obliged to acquire consent from male guardians over childbirth procedures.

This includes decisions on how they want to deliver and whether they want to undergo a Caesarean section or any other surgical procedure.

Women are also allowed to request information on the status of their pregnancy and their expected due date without a signature from their male guardian.

Previous regulations required women to obtain signed approval from their male guardians over a wide range of procedures linked to childbirth.

The move comes as part of a larger bid by the Kingdom to give women greater freedoms.

It is also a part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 to modernise the Kingdom and to add US$90 billion (Dh330bn) to economic output by 2030.

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Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry announced the new regulations on Wednesday.

It said women now have the authority to approve procedures themselves.

“Women must have the right to access information and to choose the details of a natural birth from a wide range of options,” the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

Pregnant women have the option to have a companion with them during the time of birth, this could be a family member or a friend, the ministry confirmed.

“They are also permitted to move during labour [to walk] unless they have been advised otherwise due to their health conditions,” the statement said.

The move was hailed by Twitter users that described the development as a "positive step towards empowering women."

Last June, the Kingdom granted women greater independence by lifting a driving ban and allowing them to attend football matches.

The shift towards women driving in Saudi will transform the country’s employment market by enhancing women’s participation in the workforce.

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Saudi women trailblazers

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More than 120,000 Saudi women have applied for driving licences, according to statistics released by Saudi's Interior Ministry last July, and six driving institutes for women have been established across the country.

The United Nation welcomed the lifting of the ban and said it hoped the move would generate new opportunities for women in the kingdom.

Prince Mohammed, appointed heir to the most powerful throne in the Middle East, has also lifted a ban on cinemas and mixed-gender concerts, following his vow to return the kingdom to moderate Islam.

Last February, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, Sheikh Abdullah Al Mutlaq, announced that Saudi women need not wear the abaya.

Women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear an abaya in public, but Sheikh Al Mutlaq pointed to the fact that more than 90 per cent of Muslim women around the world do not wear the loose fitted garment.

Sheikh Al Mutalq said "Muslim women should dress modestly, but that this did not necessitate wearing the abaya."

Updated: January 19, 2019 04:53 PM

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