Saudi Arabia: New travel freedom for women

Women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need a man’s permission to travel following a raft of royal decrees aimed at increasing freedoms for women announced by Riyadh Friday. However, many other aspects of the kingdom’s ‘male guardianship’ system remain in place.

Under the new rules, anyone over the age of 21 will be able to obtain a passport, previously something that was prohibited for women who were only allowed to travel with a male relation’s permission – often a husband, father or brother.

Other reforms announced Friday include giving women the right to register child births, marriages or divorces, as well as act as legal guardians of their children.

It is the latest liberal reform by the kingdom's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seen as being behind changes to the law last year that gave women the right to drive for the first time.

But he has also faced international criticism for a crackdown on human rights activists in the country, which has seen around a dozen women imprisoned and allegedly tortured.

Meanwhile, many facets of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system remain in place. For example, Women still need permission from a male relative to marry or live on their own.