According to the Saudi Gazette on the 2nd, the Saudi government issued a new law this week to relax the country’s guardian system, allowing local women to leave without the consent of male guardians and to enhance women’s rights in other family matters.
The amendment to the law signed by the Saudi King clearly stipulates that all citizens with Saudi nationality have the right to obtain a passport, and only minors need the consent of the guardian when applying for a passport. The new law will allow any citizen of Saudi Arabia aged 21 and over to travel abroad without the consent of a male guardian. In addition, the new decree grants women the right to marry, divorce, have children and become a guardian of a minor child without the consent of a male guardian. The new decree deletes the clause “as long as the husband and the woman maintain the state of marriage, where the husband is where the wife is located” and replaces it with “the residence of the minor is the residence of the father or other guardian”. The new law stipulates that both parents can unilaterally register births for newborns. The previous rule was that “only newborn fathers and closest male relatives of the males have the right to register births.” The new law also stipulates that although the husband is the first person in charge of the registration of the newly-married family, if the husband fails to perform his duties within 60 days of the marriage contract, the head of the household can be registered as a wife or even a minor child.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Princess Rima Bent Bandar, said in an interview that the decree aims to promote the social status of Saudi women, in line with previous initiatives to allow women to claim a driver’s license. The “Arabic News Network” reported that the Saudi political consultation agency had been discussing the decree for a long time. The agency “strongly felt” and the law was issued in the right direction.
For this move, Western media that have long criticized Saudi women’s policies have generally adopted a positive attitude. The US “New York Times” commented on the 2nd that the decree is a major change to the Saudi “guardian system” and is the latest move by Saudi Arabia to get rid of the image of “the world’s most restrictive female country.” The British “Guardian” said that the decree was a “critical step”, which meant that Saudi Arabia began to lift a series of control measures to make women “second-class citizens.”