First It Was Driving, Now Saudi Arabia Allows Women To Travel Without Male Permission

Women in Saudi Arabia are now able to travel without the permission of a male relative.

A Royal Decree from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came into effect on Friday, relaxing the 'male guardianship system'.

Until now, all women in Saudi Arabia have been under the guardianship of a male relative, such as a husband, father or even their son, and had to seek their permission to travel, work or own property.

Photo: Reuters

The decree used gender neutral tone to grant all Saudi adults over the age of 21 equal travel rights.

"Every applicant holding Saudi Arabian nationality will be granted a passport in line with the executive bylaw," the degree said.

The decree also allows women to find work without a male relative's permission.

Women will also have more control over family matters under the decree, allowing them to register births, marriages and divorces, issued offical family documents and be the guardian of minors, for the first time.

In June 2018, Saudi women were allowed to drive after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman lifted the ban that had been in place since 1957.

READ MORE: Saudi Women Officially Behind The Wheel

Saudi women were allowed to drive in 2018.

Despite these moves, Saudi Arabia's treatment of women have been questioned following a number of high profile cases over the past year.

In November, two Saudi sisters were found dead on the shores of the Hudson River in Manhattan.

READ MORE: Sisters Preferred Suicide Over Returning To Saudi Arabia: Police

Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 23, who were living in Virginia, had likely "entered the water alive" and were said to have preferred suicide over returning to Saudi Arabia, police said at the time.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq al-Qunun. Image: Reuters.

In January this year, Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq al-Qunun, 18, fled to Thailand through Kuwait, after she feared her family would kill her for renouncing Islam.

But on arrival in Bangkok, a Saudi diplomat removed her passport and detained her in an airport hotel.

READ MORE: 'Going To Start A Revolution': How Rahaf al-Qunun Is Inspiring Saudi Women

Under Saudi law at the time, al-Qunun had violated the 'guardianship' system by travelling alone without the permission of a male relative.

Al-Qunun barricaded herself in the hotel room to avoid being deported back to Saudi Arabia. She was granted asylum by Canada.

READ MORE: Saudi Sisters Stuck 'In Hiding' For Six Months In Hong Kong Seek Asylum In Australia

Months later, Saudi sisters Rawan and Reem (not their real names) spent six months hiding in Hong Kong after fleeing a family trip to Sri Lanka.

The woman, aged 18 and 20, said they had their passports cancelled by the Saudi Government and could not board their planned flight to Melbourne.

The sisters were eventually granted a humanitarian visa, but their current location is not known.

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been increasingly handed more power by his father King Salman, says  he has been working to improve gender equality in the kingdom.

The 'Saudi Arabia 2030 Vision' endeavours to increase the female workforce from 17 percent to 25 percent.