Women can soon benefit from some government services without needing permission from a male guardian, reports suggest.
Saudi Arabia could soon see increased opportunities for women thanks to a new decree that has been welcomed by the nation’s females.
According to local news sources, King Salman bin Abdulaziz has issued a directive allowing women to use government services such as education and healthcare without the consent of a male guardian.
Typically under the male guardianship law, a woman requires the permission of a man – usually her husband, father or brother – to marry, travel abroad, study, rent a property, and obtain a passport.
However the King’s decree, issued on May 4, means women could “study and access hospital treatment, work in the public and private sector and represent themselves in court” in some cases, a women’s rights campaigner told Reuters.
“Now at least it opens the door for discussion on the guardian system,” said Maha Akeel, director at the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. “Women are independent and can take care of themselves.”
Currently, Saudi Arabia prohibits women from taking the wheel, interacting with men, trying clothes while shopping or competing freely in sports.
However change is already afoot as part of Vision 2030, the conservative nation’s post-oil economy plans, with a ban on women voting or taking part in elections lifted in 2015.
Women in Saudi can now also sit on the government’s advisory Shura Council, and in 2016 the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.
As part of King Salman’s latest decree, the issue of driving is touched upon, with a direction for companies to provide transportation for female employees.
“Placing the onus for transportation on employers will make this one less hurdle faced by women,” reported Forbes, adding that the new decree will have an immediate impact on the lives of Saudi women.
Under its post-oil economy plans, the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.