By Cailey Rizzo
August 02, 2019
June 13, 2019 shows Saudi women arriving at Abha airport in the popular mountain resort of the same name in the southwest of Saudi Arabia
| Credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/Getty Images

The government of Saudi Arabia announced Friday that women no longer need to acquire male “guardianship” or permission to travel independently.

Women aged 21 or older no longer need male permission in order to apply for a passport or travel abroad independently, according to a statement released Friday from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Information.

Muslim pilgrims queue for passport control at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on July 7, 2019, prior to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca.
| Credit: AMER HILABI/Getty Images

The new regulations also extend the ability to work; register births, marriages, and divorces; or serve as the legal guardian of minors regardless of sex.

It ends the period of “guardianship” that required women to secure permission from men in their families — sometimes even their own sons — to travel alone.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., Reema Bandar Al-Saud, tweeted on Friday that the “developments have been a long time coming” and that they are “history in the making [...] that will unquestionably create real change for Saudi women.”

The reform comes as women have fled the country seeking refugee status elsewhere in order to escape abusive conditions they believed their legal system would not protect them from.

The Ministry of Information, who announced the reform, called it part of the government’s “efforts to promote women's rights and empowerment, equal to men," according to The New York Times. Changes are expected to be in effect by the end of the month.

Still, the legal status of women in the country is not entirely equal. In a court of law, their opinion holds the same weight as that of a minor. Women still require male permission to marry, leave prison, or leave a domestic abuse shelter.

Women were only granted the right to vote in Saudi Arabia in 2015. In 2017, women in Saudi Arabia were granted the ability to obtain driver’s licenses, with the first licenses being issued last year.