Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

Saudi Arabian women celebrate as travel reforms come into effect

A decree allowing greater freedom to women has come into force, although some restrictions remain on the equal rights of mothers

A Saudi woman rolls her suitcase at the departure hall of the Jeddah Airport on. AFP
A Saudi woman rolls her suitcase at the departure hall of the Jeddah Airport on. AFP

Hundreds of Saudi Arabian women reportedly crossed into Bahrain unaccompanied on Monday as landmark reforms lifting restrictions on travelling without men’s permission came into effect.

Royal decrees issued at the start of this month ended the need for women to obtain the permission of male guardians to travel or obtain passports.

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

Women took to social media to praise the new liberalisation.

“The women’s age begins,” one wrote on Twitter. Another expressed her gratitude to the Crown Prince, posting: “Thank you, MBS.”

Under the old system, women had to seek permission from their official guardians – usually their father or husband, but sometimes a brother or son – to marry, apply for a passport or leave Saudi Arabia.

The new decrees grant every adult citizen, male or female, the right to freely obtain a passport, but did retain some restrictions on the under-21s and the rights of women to request passports for their children.

Paternal permission is still required for under-21s without study plans to travel abroad and only the male parent can apply for passports for offspring under 15.

The kingdom’s passport department on Monday announced that those under 21 can travel without their parents’ permission if they have proof of enrolment in education abroad.

Other reforms granted women’s rights to register a marriage, divorce or child’s birth, be issued official family documents and become a child’s official guardian.

Requesting passports for adopted children – previously a complex process requiring special permission – has been simplified for adoptive fathers and mothers alike.

Updated: August 20, 2019 08:10 PM

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