Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to allow women to get their own passports and travel without needing a man to accompany them.
Here’s what we know
On Thursday, the Saudi Cabinet signed an amendment lifting the rule that said a male guardian needed to sign off before an adult woman could obtain a passport, effective as of the end of August. In some cases, according to Fox News, women were given a page in their guardian’s passport instead of getting one of their own, making it even more restrictive.
Women have slowly been getting some other basic rights over the past few years in Saudi Arabia, including the ability to get driver’s licenses and the right to work in certain sectors, including air traffic control. However, they still need approval from a male guardian for many aspects of life that women in other countries take for granted.
Reema Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi ambassador to the United States, said, “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.”
Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go when it comes to rights
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been praised for pushing for some of these recent milestones for women in his country, but he’s also known to be ruthless in silencing any opposition to his political aspirations including members of his own family.
Saudi Arabia has also proven that it’s not ready to make progress when it comes to other rights, like freedom of speech. In September 2018, the country’s Public Prosecution announced that those convicted of “information crime,” including mocking the government “through social media,” could face five years in prison and a fine of about $800,000.