Saudi women get a new right

Saudi visitors attend the Riyadh International Book Fair on March 5, 2013 in the Saudi capital. The Exhibition opened officially today and will continue until March 15. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

State news agency SPA reported on August 20 that Saudi Arabia has begun allowing adult women to travel without permission.

Riyadh has long faced international criticism over the status of Saudi women. Rights groups say women are often treated as second-class citizens under rules requiring them to get the consent of a male guardian for important decisions throughout their entire lives, regardless of age.

The authorities have steadily chipped away at those restrictions in recent years, including ending a ban on women driving cars last year.

Reportedly the regulatory changes 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. They also granted women for the first time the 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.

Citing an interior ministry source the SPA report said, “The passports and civil status departments and their branches in all regions of the kingdom have started to implement the amendments stipulated in the royal decree.”

It may be stated that more than 1,000 women in the country’s Eastern Province had left Saudi Arabia on August 19 without their guardian’s permission, in what appeared to be an early implementation of the new rules.

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