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Saudi Arabia removes travel ban on women

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia has announced to allow women to travel abroad without approval from a male “guardian”.

With the government’s announcement, the restriction that drew international censure and prompted extreme attempts to flee the kingdom has come to an end.

The decree announced on Friday comes after high-profile attempts by women to escape their guardians, despite a string of reforms including an historic decree last year that overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists.

Reema Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador to the United States, also confirmed the report in a social media post.

“These new regulations are history in the making. They call for the equal engagement of women and men in our society,” she said. “These developments have been a long time coming.”

It was unclear when the order will take effect.

If implemented, the landmark reform ends the long-standing guardianship system that renders adult women as legal minors and allows their guardians – husband, father and other male relatives – to exercise arbitrary authority over them.

“A passport will be granted to any Saudi national who submits an application,” said a government ruling published in the official gazette, Umm Al-Qura.

The regulation effectively allows women over the age of 21 to obtain passports and leave the country without their guardian’s permission, the pro-government Okaz newspaper and other local media reported, citing senior authorities.

Women in the kingdom have long required permission from their male guardians to marry, renew their passports or exit the country.

The reform grants women greater autonomy and mobility, the pro-government Saudi Gazette newspaper said, hailing the decision as “one giant leap for Saudi women”.

The decision was met with jubilation on social media, with the hashtag “No guardianship over women travel” gaining traction and many posting humorous memes of women fleeing with suitcases and being chased by men.

“Some women’s dreams were aborted due to inability to leave the country for whatever reason … to study abroad, a work opportunity, or even flee if so desired,” Saudi businesswoman Muna Abu Sulayman said on Twitter.