King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued a Royal Decree this week that Saudi women will no longer need to acquire permission from a “male guardian” (husband, father, brother, etc.) to obtain a passport, travel or work in another step forward for women’s rights in the kingdom.
The decree, written in a gender-neutral manner according to Arab News, was issued on 29 July stresses the rights for all Saudi citizens (men and women) to obtain passports and the right for women to not require male permission to travel or work. Under the new law, only minors will have to obtain permission from a guardian to obtain a passport and to travel. There are no specific restrictions stated for women in the decree.
The decision to issue this decree came after extended discussions within the Shoura Council who decided the change in the law was a step in the right direction. The country has begun addressing many of the issues in Saudi Arabia that inhibit a woman’s right “from living their lives securely and free from unnecessary hassles,” according to Arab News.
Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, the first female Saudi Ambassador to the United States, confirmed the Royal Decree on social media saying, “I am elated to confirm that KSA will be enacting amendments to its labour and civil laws that are designed to elevate the status of Saudi women within our society, including granting them the right to apply for passports and travel independently.
“These developments have been a long time coming. From the inclusion of women in the consultative council to issuing driving licenses to women, our leadership has proved its unequivocal commitment to gender equality.
“These new regulations are history in the making. They call for the equal engagement of women and men in our society. It is a holistic approach to gender equality that will unquestionably create real change for Saudi women.
“Women have always played an integral role in our country’s development, and they will continue to do so moving forward on equal footing with their male counterparts.”
It is not yet known when the new law will take effect.
Last year, the King issued a Royal Decree that lifted the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia in a massive step forward for the conservative Muslim country.
Of course, while these are steps forward, the kingdom still has a way to go regarding women’s and human rights.