Saudi Arabia:  Travel abroad restriction on women lifted

In a landmark reform, Saudi Arabia has allowed women above 21 years of age to receive passports (issue or renew) and travel abroad without permission from a male guardian. Saudi Arabian Women have for long required permission from their male guardians (which includes husband, father and other male relatives) for these tasks. These restrictions have drawn international censure also.

Key Highlights

Saudi Arabia’s Departments of Passport and Civil Status have begun enforcing amended Travel Documents Law and regulations, for the purpose of allowing women to travel abroad without permission.

In addition to this, mothers who have primary custody of their children can now also apply for passports and provide travel permission for their children.

This reform weakens the restrictive guardianship system that has long been a symbol of repression against women in Saudi Arabia.

Trigger: This reform comes after several high-profile attempts by Saudi Arabian women to escape alleged guardianship abuse were witnessed despite a string of reforms undertaken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman regime.

Other reforms undertaken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman includes-

A landmark decree in 2018 that overturned world’s only ban on women drivers.

In early August 2019, Saudi women were also granted right same as men, to officially register childbirth, marriage and divorce as well as to be recognized as a guardian to children who are minors.

Reform comes as OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) petroleum producer stumbles from low oil prices and seeks to boost employment opportunities for women who are currently facing chronic joblessness.

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