Hundreds of Saudi women cross borders on their own

Royal decrees issued in the beginning of this month ended the need for women to obtain permission of male guardians to travel or obtain passports. — File photo

Saudi Gazette report

Hundreds of Saudi women reportedly crossed into Bahrain on Monday unaccompanied as landmark reforms lifting restrictions on travelling without men’s permission came into effect. The number of women who crossed the entry points of the Eastern Province alone has exceeded 1,000 within a few hours. The women have taken advantage of the enforcement of the new regulation through an announcement by the General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) on its website on Monday, Al-Yaum newspaper reported.

Royal decrees issued in the beginning of this month ended the need for women to obtain permission of male guardians to travel or obtain passports. The new amendments in the Travel Documents Regulation, which were approved by the Council of Ministers recently, allow a woman to apply for and obtain a passport without requiring the approval of her male guardian. The amendments included granting the same rights to males and females above 21 years of age, and travel permit for custody of minors.

According to the amendments, all Saudis under the age of 21 are required to have permission from their guardians for obtaining travel documents. However, three categories of Saudi citizens under the age of 21 have been exempted from this: foreign scholarship students, employees taking part in official trips abroad with a letter of consent from the employer, and those who are married. As for foreign scholarship students, they need to produce a certificate from the Ministry of Education in this regard. In the case of a minor whose father is dead, mother will be the guardian, the amendments stated.

The new historic move is part of expanded social reforms initiated by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, and that also granted women the right to drive last year, as well as study at university, undergo surgery or get a job without male consent.

Many Saudi women took to social media to praise the new liberalization. “The women’s age begins,” one wrote on Twitter. Another expressed her gratitude to the Crown Prince, posting: “Thank you, MBS.”

Under the old system, women had to seek permission from their official guardians – usually their father or husband, but sometimes a brother or son – to marry, apply for a passport or leave Saudi Arabia. The new decrees grant every adult citizen, male or female, the right to freely obtain a passport, but did retain some restrictions on the under-21s and the rights of women to request passports for their children. Paternal permission is still required for under-21s without study plans to travel abroad and only the male parent can apply for passports for offspring under 15. Other reforms granted women’s rights to register a marriage, divorce or child’s birth, be issued official family documents and become a child’s official guardian. Requesting passports for adopted children — previously a complex process requiring special permission — has been simplified for adoptive fathers and mothers alike.