The Saudi Arabian government announced last week a series of reforms aimed at expanding women’s civil rights including allowing Saudi women over the age of 21 to travel abroad alone and allowing women to file for birth certificates, marriage, and divorce. The new laws require equal employment regulations and criminalize discrimination based on gender, disability or race. However, these changes do not dismantle the male guardianship system in the country.
Saudi Ambassador, Princess Reema bint Bandar, the first woman ambassador from the Kingdom to U.S., welcomed the changes. In a series of tweets, she wrote, “These new regulations are history in the making. They call for the equal engagement of women and men in our society. It is a holistic approach to gender equality that will unquestionably create real change for Saudi women.”
Last year, women were granted the right to drive and were for the first time allowed to watch live sports events in the stadiums. Women were also given the right to vote on local issues in 2015 and are now allowed to run for elections in for local council positions.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia observes a strict brand of Islamic law, known as Wahhabism. The law does not allow women and men to be together and requires women to wear veil that must fully cover them. It is also in the Saudi law that every woman should have a male guardian, often a father, brother, husband, or a close male relative. It is not known when these changes will take effect.
Media Resources: BBC 8/2/19; France 24 8/2/19