Saudi changes allow women to travel without male consent

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Saudi Arabia has ended a bevy of legal restrictions on women - including restraints on applying for passports and traveling overseas without the approval of a male relative - in what was celebrated as another step in the dismantling of the much-vilified "Wilayah", or guardianship system.

The changes have been welcomed by many Saudis, but also drew backlash from conservatives. It also stipulates that a father or mother can be legal guardians of children.

Following the announcement of the new regulation, countless Saudi women took to different social media platforms to celebrate the win.

Until recently, women of Saudi Arabia had to seek permission from a male guardian, this could be a male relative, father or a husband, in order to obtain a passport and to travel overseas.

Women can not file a lawsuit on their own, which activists say hinders their ability to report cases of domestic violence. At the same time, authorities have clamped down on domestic criticism and arrested some of the kingdom's most prominent women's rights activists.

Recent changes to Saudi laws affecting women have included ending a ban on women driving, easing restrictions on gender mixing and allowing women to serve in the armed forces. Reforms have also seen the introduction of the kingdom's first movie cinemas and first concerts.

"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", she tweeted. But we activists believe that these measures are just for show and that Mohammed bin Salman is actively shutting down any form of peaceful dissent and actually has no intention of implementing real reforms.

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However, critics point to the various harsh restrictions that remain.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the United States, on Friday morning said she was "elated" to confirm the new changes to the country's labour and civil law.

The new regulations also extend the ability to work; register births, marriages, and divorces; or serve as the legal guardian of minors regardless of sex. Those who qualify as guardians to make decisions on a female's behalf include a husband, father, brother, son.

The Saudi legal system has always been criticised for treating adult women as minors, and the decrees do not completley change this.

Though a number of those activists have since been released, many inside the Kingdom still feel threatened. In the past, the restriction caused women to run away from the country and had brought Saudi Arabia a lot of flak.

In 2017, women in Saudi Arabia were granted the ability to obtain driver's licenses, with the first licenses being issued past year.

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