Beginning today, Saudi women can travel abroad without ‘permission’ from male guardian

The latest implementation comes after a landmark decree last year that overturned the world’s only ban on women drivers. (Tasneem Alsultan/The New York Times)

Women in Saudi Arabia over the age of 21 will be able to receive passports and travel abroad without permission from a male "guardian", as the country starts implementing the landmark reform from Wednesday.

The reform in the highly conservative country was announced on July 31. Under the new rules, Saudi women would be able to travel abroad without needing to seek approval from their male guardians. They are also allowed to be able to apply for a passport by themselves upon turning 21. The reforms place Saudi women at par with men with regard to freedom to travel.

The passport department has already started receiving applications for women to issue or renew passports and to travel outside the kingdom without permission, AFP reported.

In the new changes unveiled earlier this month, women will now also be able to register their marriage, porce, or the birth of their children, as well as obtain family documents. Women can register as the co-head of a household with the husband, which will make it easier for them to secure Saudi national identity cards. They can now also be the legal guardian of their children, a position hitherto reserved for men.

The reform comes after high-profile attempts by women to escape alleged guardianship abuse despite a string of reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including a landmark decree last year that overturned the world’s only ban on women drivers.

However, several other rules which are part of the guardianship system remain in force, such as requiring a male guardian s permission to marry, leave prison, or start a business. Saudi women still cannot bequeath citizenship to their children.