When Saudi Arabia announced it will grant women their right to travel abroad without the need for male consent, some speculated whether the move would take immediate effect. Critics claimed that the legislation would need time to materialize, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
On Monday, local media outlets reported that over 1,000 Saudi women over the age of 21 in the Eastern province actually traveled outside of the country without the consent of their male guardians.
This marks the first recorded statistic in relation to how the kingdom's latest decision is being implemented.
The news comes during a triumphant week for women in the country, particularly those who have children. On Monday, Saudi mothers were finally given the right to apply for passports for children in their custody and approve travel abroad, something that was previously a male-exclusive privilege. The most recent decision also allows divorced mothers with custody to issue passports and travel permissions for their children.
Under the new reforms, Saudi women under the age of 21 can get approval from their mother, as opposed to another male relative, in cases where the father is deceased. If those very same women are married or traveling to study on a government scholarship, they also don't need male consent.
The dismantling of the kingdom's male guardianship system has begun
Saudi women have put up numerous fights over the years to break up the kingdom's male guardianship system which forces women to depend on their fathers, brothers, husbands, or sometimes even son, in nearly all aspects of public life. It took decades, but it finally looks like their battle is materializing. In recent years, the kingdom has altered a number of laws governing women's lives including access to government services, which previously required a woman to obtain consent from her male guardian.
However, there are still several milestones that need to be achieved in order for women in the country to get their right to unconditional freedom. These include the complete throwing out of the male guardianship system in its entirety because it continues to govern several aspects of women's lives. These include legal decisions as a woman is still required to get male consent before filing police reports or suing someone - even when it comes to cases of domestic violence.
As women in the country continue their fight, the kingdom's leadership is taking note of their plight. In July, a Saudi royal family member told the Wall Street Journal that change was something everyone wanted. "There is no question that the leadership, the government and the people want to see this system changed."