In a landmark decision that will change the lives of Saudi women for the better, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers recently announced that women over the age of 21 can hold a passport and can travel abroad without the permission of a close male relative. While it's great news for women's right in this severely conservative country, the activists who campaigned for this decree still remain imprisoned.
"Remove the guardianship system or we’ll all migrate"
Eman Alhussein, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) said that this is "perhaps the boldest decisions implemented so far under the current leadership regarding the situation of women in the Kingdom." While this decision is being touted as long overdue and something that will slowly dismantle the male guardianship system, human rights experts also reveal that this will help women participate in the workforce more enthusiastically in the future. A campaign titled, 'I Am My Own Guardian' which began in 2017 helped end the mandatory male approval and the recent flight of many Saudi women like teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun who fled to Thailand created an outcry and an international buzz on this issue. Also, Arabic hashtags on social media which translate to "remove the guardianship system or we’ll all migrate," went viral for all the right reasons and created an awareness of the plight of Saudi women across the world.
Saudi women will soon be able to gain more control over their own lives
These latest travel regulation will be enforced from the end of August 2019 and people are hoping that this will be the first of many amendments that will help Saudi women gain their freedom. "This is a huge step forward but much remains for women’s equality. Divorce laws, child custody laws, and inheritance laws still harshly discriminate against women. Hope these are next to go, in stride with other Muslim countries that have made amendments," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. Saudi women will soon be able to gain more control over their own lives and while there are still many hurdles like imprisonment for activism, there have been many social changes that are helping women come out of the shadows in the recent years.
Image credit: StepFeed