Saudi Arabia seems to be opening up avenues for its women so that they can finally get a sense of freedom. The country that has been criticised globally for subjugating women even today, has finally allowed women to apply for a passport and travel freely without the consent of their male relatives. Up until now, the country had a controversial guardianship policy that required male consent for a woman to travel or carry a passport. King Salman and his Cabinet on Friday released new laws which permit any person 21 and older to travel abroad without prior consent and any citizen to apply for a Saudi passport on their own.

“A passport will be granted to any Saudi national who submits an application,” said a government ruling published in the official gazette, Umm Al-Qura, Aljazeera reported.

For all these years, Saudi Arabia has treated its women as minors even when they grow up to be adults by making them seek the permission of their male relatives like their father or husband, to obtain a passport or fly abroad. Even her own son can act as her guardian only after whose permission will she be allowed to travel into another country. This rule of the orthodox state received global criticism and ire of human rights activists across the globe including those who lived in the state itself. This law also led many women from the country to flee domestic violence and abuse and the concept of male guardianship. Famously called “runaways”, women of Saudi escaped to different countries to find better living condition abroad.

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“Some women’s dreams were aborted due to inability to leave the country for whatever reason … to study abroad, a work opportunity, or even flee if so desired,” Saudi businesswoman Muna Abu Sulayman said on Twitter. “This change means women are in a way in full control of their legal destiny.” Apart from allowing women to travel abroad without male consent, the new decree also allows women to register a marriage, divorce or child’s birth and to be issued official family documents. The male guardianship rule oppressed women to seek permission to get married or divorced, open a business, or sometimes even access health care.

“A passport will be granted to any Saudi national who submits an application,” said a government ruling published in the official gazette, Umm Al-Qura

Women’s position in Saudi Arabia society matches that of a minor. Their statement in a court of law is given lesser importance than that of a man’s statement. Saudi Arabia in the last few years also allowed women to drive, on a few occasions like for picking up their child from schools. However last year, it arrested several women activists and imprisoned them for speaking up and campaigning for their right to drive.

Women’s fight for rights in the Arabic country has influenced people across the world and made global personalities empathetic towards their condition. However, the state rule is bringing their rights at par with the rest of the world very slowly and steadily.

Picture credit- Getty

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