Women in Saudi Arabia to be allowed to live, travel without male guardian

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The landmark ruling states that “an adult woman has the right to choose where to live. A woman’s guardian can report her only if he has evidence proving she committed a crime.”

https://www.jpost.com/-By SHIRA SILKOFF

A Saudi woman wearing a facemask walks with her luggage as she arrives at the King Khalid International Airport, after Saudi authorities lift the travel ban on its citizens after fourteen months due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 16, 2021.(photo credit: REUTERS/AHMED YOSRI)

Women in Saudi Arabia are to be allowed to live alone without a male guardian, after a landmark ruling for the country known for its harsh gender inequality, multiple

Saudi Arabia has lagged behind many of its neighboring countries when it comes to women’ s rights, with the vote only being given to women for the first time in 2011. In the 2021 World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report, Saudi Arabia was ranked 147th out of 156 countries, and although this score is extremely low, it is higher than it has been in previous years, proving that progress is being made. 

The real proof however, can be seen in the dramatic changes taking place within the Kingdom, all with a focus on social reform.

The decision to allow women to live by themselves without permission or a male guardian was a landmark ruling. The amendment to the “Law of Procedure before Sharia Courts,” will allow  single, divorced or widowed women to live independently in a house without permission from father or any other male guardian.

The old law stated that women who find themselves in these circumstances must be under the responsibility of a male guardian who would be able to control her every move if he wished, whereas the amendment now states that “an adult woman has the right to choose where to live. A woman’s guardian can report her only if he has evidence proving she committed a crime.”

For many people, this decision has been years in the making.

Saudi writer Marian al-Otaibi was embroiled in a three-year legal battle from 2017-2020 after she was sued by her family for living and traveling alone without her father’s permission. She eventually won the case after the court ruled that she had “the right to choose where to live.”

Courts will no longer accept lawsuits filed by family members of girls who choose to live alone, something that has been allowed up until now.

The decision to change the law was made as part of a larger plan which Prince Mohammed bin Salman is working to implement after he promised that Saudi Arabia would become a more equal place for women.

Other changes which have come about recently include the decision to allow women to register for Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, without needing a male guardian with them.

They will also be allowed to join the military and armed forces in various positions including the Medical Service and the Royal Navy.

In 2019 Saudi Arabia passed a law which would allow women the right to drive, and it has now been extended to include the option for girls aged 17 to receive their driving licenses.

The first steps have also been put in to motion to allow women in the Kingdom to pursue legal careers and be appointed as judges.

In January 2021 the Saudi based Al Arabiya media channel reported that the undersecretary for women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia, Hind al-Zahid had “initiatives in place on several levels” which would allow women to assume the position of judge.

While women in Saudi Arabia welcome the long-overdue changes, men both in Saudi Arabia and abroad were furious, with one person reportedly based in Pakistan replying to the news on Facebook by saying “if Saddam Hussain was alive [nothing would be] happening like this!” Another Facebook user simply said “kingdom is on the wrong direction.”

 

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