In a significant move, Saudi Arabia has allowed adult women to travel without permission and granted them more control over family matters, further eroding a heavily criticized male guardianship system at a time of heightened scrutiny over its human rights record.
A series of royal decrees published by the official gazette on August 2, 2019, stipulated that a Saudi passport should be issued to any citizen who applies for it and that any person above the age of 21 does not need permission to travel.
The amendments to regulations also grants women right to register child birth, marriage or divorce and to be issued official family documents and be eligible as a guardian to children who are minors.
Riyadh has long been internationally criticized for imposing high restrictions on women. As per the rights groups’ women are often treated as second-class citizens under rules which require them to get the consent of a male guardian for important decisions throughout their entire lives, regardless of age.
The kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has last year favoured ending the male guardian system but stopped short of endorsing its annulment as women are still required to seek permission from a male relative to marry or live on their own.
The decrees published on August 2, 2019, also covered employment regulations that would expand work opportunities for women, who represent a big portion of unemployed Saudis. They stipulated that all citizens have the right to work without facing any discrimination based on gender, disability or age.
Saudi Arabia ranked 141 of 149 countries in the 2018 Global Gender Gap, a World Economic Forum study on how women fare in economic and political participation, health and education.
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