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Big Break for Saudi Women: Now They Can Leave

Male guardians no longer have authority over women's passports
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2019 6:33 AM CDT
Women's rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, drives towards the United Arab Emirates-Saudi Arabia border on Nov. 30, 2014, in Saudi Arabia.   (AP Photo/Loujain al-Hathloul, File)

(Newser) – Saudi women 21 and above hoping to leave the country no longer need a man's help. Saudi Arabia continued its loosening of restrictions on women on Thursday with passage of an amendment that, once it goes into effect at the end of August, will allow all Saudi women to apply for passports and for women 21 and above to travel independently, reports CNN. Previous rules meant a woman could only get a passport with approval from a male guardian. Otherwise, women were given a page in their guardian's passport, meaning they could never travel abroad alone. For the first time, women in Saudi Arabia will also be able to register a child birth, marriage, or divorce; collect family documents; and may be considered a guardian to minor children, per Reuters.

The country's Ministry of Information says the reforms are part of "efforts to promote women's rights and empowerment, equal to men." Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman previously lifted a driving ban for women and appointed a woman—Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan—as ambassador to America. Another new policy means women will finally be notified if their husbands divorce them. But many restrictions remain. For instance, women still cannot marry, divorce, open a business, or live alone without permission from a male relative, and men and women must be separated at public events, per CNN. Al Jazeera describes "jubilation" at Thursday’s news, which follows several high-profile cases of women who fled abuse in the country, often from family members. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)

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