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HOW SAUDI’S ‘NEW DIRECTION IS CHANGING WOMEN’S LIVES

As Saudi Arabia allows women to travel without a man’s consent, Lulwa Shalhoub, a resident of Jeddah, explains how the move will affect her life.

No need for a man’s approval to travel, another step forward for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

Last week marked another historic day for Saudi women, giving them hope for a brighter future for them and their daughters. A future in which they are not second-class citizens.

Having to obtain a male guardian’s permission to travel abroad has been one of the remaining obstacles that face Saudi women, particularly divorced or widowed women. In some cases, women had to get permission from their sons when they had no living fathers, uncles or brothers.

At last, the definition of adulthood in Saudi Arabia is gender-neutral. Both men and women are adults when they reach the age of 21.

For a mother who spent years raising her son only for him to be the one who gave her permission to travel, it was degrading. It was also ironic in a culture that has a strong emphasis on respecting one’s parents.

Even less convenient was when a woman had no male relatives that could qualify to be her guardians – whether a father, husband, brother or son. And divorced or widowed women who lived within ultra-conservative male-dominant families could be denied approval and so could not travel when they wanted to.

What makes the changes faster and harder to resist is that in the past two years they have been backed up by a change in regulations and royal decrees. This includes lifting the driving ban on Saudi women in September 2017 – implemented in June 2018 – and the latest change on travel.

The new rule means the relationship between a husband and his wife becomes a partnership between two responsible adults, rather than guardianship of a minor.




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