Women in Saudi Arabia will now be able to apply for passports and travel abroad on their own without obtaining a male guardian’s permission.
An amendment signed by the Saudi Cabinet this week overturns a controversial regulation requiring Saudi women to first gain approval from a male guardian—typically a husband, father, brother or son—before applying for and receiving a passport. Women over the age of 21 will also be able to travel without male supervision when the new law goes into effect at the end of August.
Hoda al-Helaissi, a member of the kingdom’s advisory Shura Council called the new regulations “a great breakthrough.”
“It was bound to happen but these changes are always done at a time when the people are more apt to accept the changes, otherwise they will fail,” she told the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Saudi female ambassador to the U.S., Reema Bandar Al-Saud said she was “elated” and said the changes have “been a long time coming.”
Saudi Arabia is currently in the midst of easing long-standing social restrictions on women considered by many to be oppressive. “Women in Saudi Arabia face formal and informal barriers when attempting to make decisions or take action without the presence or consent of a male relative,” Human Rights Watch stated in its 2019 World Report.
It was just last year that Saudi women were granted the right to drive.