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 thestatus of Saudi women. Rights groups say women are often treated assecond-class citizens under rules requiring them to get the consent of a maleguardian for important decisions throughout their entire lives, regardless ofage.
The authorities havesteadily chipped away at those restrictions in recent years, including ending aban on women driving cars last year.
Reportedly the regulatory changes stipulated that a Saudipassport should be issued to any citizen who applies for it and that any personabove the age of 21 does not need permission to travel. They also granted womenfor the first time the right to register child birth, marriage or divorce andto be issued official family documents and be eligible as a guardian tochildren 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.