Saudi Arabia: Newspaper says authorities are going to allow women to travel abroad without a male guardian

Skepticism is called for. The prohibition on women going out without a male guardian is not “extremism.” It’s basic, mainstream Sharia: “The husband may forbid his wife to leave the home…because of the hadith related by Bayhaqi that the Prophet…said, ‘It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to allow someone into her husband’s house if he is opposed, or to go out of it if he is averse” (Reliance of the Traveller m10.4).

The Saudis are unlikely to go against a command of Muhammad. This relaxation of the prohibition is likely to be window dressing designed to improve Saudi Arabia’s international image.

“Saudis to Let Women Travel Without Male Permission, Newspaper Says,” by Vivian Nereim and Sarah Algethami, 

Saudi Arabia will allow women to travel abroad without permission from a male guardian, ending a restriction that came under heavy international criticism and led some women to take extreme measures to flee the country, local media reported.

Authorities have approved amendments to laws governing travel documents and civil status, allowing women over the age of 21 to obtain passports and leave the country without securing the consent of a guardian, Okaz newspaper reported on Thursday, without saying where it got the information. The English-language Arab News daily said King Salman Bin Abdulaziz approved the changes in a royal decree.

The kingdom’s official gazette tweeted that amendments to travel rules, the labor law and civil status law would be included in its next edition.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has put loosening social restrictions at the heart of his economic transformation plan for Saudi Arabia, which relies on diversifying away from oil and attracting foreign investment.

The government has clipped the powers of the kingdom’s infamous religious police, relaxed gender segregation and lifted a ban on women driving. At the same time, authorities have clamped down on domestic criticism and arrested some of the kingdom’s most prominent women’s rights activists.
Long Campaign

The latest changes remove language that dictates a woman’s place of residence is with her husband and will allow women to report marriages, divorces and births similarly to men, Okaz reported.

Saudi women’s rights activists have campaigned for years against the conservative Islamic kingdom’s guardianship system, which renders women legal dependents of a male relative throughout their lives. Women currently need permission from their guardian — typically a father or husband, but sometimes a brother or son — to marry, apply for a passport or leave the country.

Many of the women who fought for an end to guardianship are currently banned from travel or are behind bars, including Loujain Al-Hathoul, an activist who turned 30 in jail this week….

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