Published: Sun, August 04, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Saudi Arabia allows women to travel without male 'guardian' approval

Saudi Arabia allows women to travel without male 'guardian' approval

She, and other key rights trailblazers, entered their second year behind bars this summer.

The changes got mixed reviews on social media, with the kingdom's ambassador to the United States tweeting that she was elated.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, tweeted about the topic: "Saudi has promised to end the guardianship system over the past decade at least a few times at the UN Human Rights Council sessions".

Some also denounced the change as "un-Islamic" in a society that traditionally sees men as protectors of women.

An amendment signed by the Saudi Cabinet this week overturns a controversial regulation requiring Saudi women to first gain approval from a male guardian-typically a husband, father, brother or son-before applying for and receiving a passport. The women, among them Loujain al-Hathloul, are facing trial and allege they were tortured in prison.

In a statement, she said she wanted to "make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression".

Women who marry a foreigner can not pass citizenship onto their children.

"We are a Muslim community not a Western one, may God keep our daughters safe from all evils", said Sarah, a Saudi woman in her late 40s who declined to give her surname.

The report noted that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is engaging in policies that would loosen social restrictions relating to his economic transformation plan for Saudi Arabia.

The amendments also state that all Saudis "are equal in the right to work" regardless of sex, age or other criteria, and that employers are barred from firing women in their employ or threatening to do so during pregnancy or maternity leave, as long as the women are not absent for a cumulative period of six months of a year.

The reform program does not, however, envision political change that could in any way challenge the nation's authoritarian governing model.

To leave the country, some Saudi women say they had to hack into their father's phone and change the settings on a government app to allow themselves permission to leave the country.

The reform comes as women have fled the country seeking refugee status elsewhere in order to escape abusive conditions they believed their legal system would not protect them from.

Their requests for asylum have shed an uncomfortable glare on the kingdom's restrictions on women at a time when it is eager to court global investment.

The decision follows the high-profile case in January of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who barricaded herself in a Bangkok hotel room to prevent her family from returning her to Saudi Arabia.

Major change is arriving in Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom grants new rights to women.

Saudi women were allowed to drive in 2018.

Riyadh in recent years has opened movie theaters and invited Hollywood entertainers to perform in large-scale concerts for all, and has additionally opened some sectors of work - including air traffic control, passport control and investigators in the public prosecution - of which women were previously barred.

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