The male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia might slowly be coming to an end.
Under a new royal decree issued by King Salman earlier this week and reported by Local media on Thursday, women are no longer required to obtain consent from their guardians in order to be provided government services, “unless there is a legal basis for this request in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah."
The directive was sent to all government offices in the kingdom and allows women their right to apply for work permits, as well as medical and educational services without the consent of a male relative.
Previously, women needed a guardian's written approval before any government department could process their applications.
The order does not include any change to women's rights when it comes to obtaining a passport or traveling abroad without a male relative's permission, and therefore does not fully end the guardianship system, but loosens it up - a step considered a move forward.
The order also "demanded the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to provide means of transportation for women workers in accordance with the provisions of the labor law." Women in the country have not yet been granted the right to drive, but many believe a decision to change that might be coming soon.
In a statement on their website the Human Rights Commission and its President Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban welcomed the news, saying that "it reflects King Salman’s care of his people and embodies his concern to simplify procedures for women who constitute half of Saudi society," and who are a major partner in its development, Arab News reported.
While many have hailed the decree and see it as a partial lift on the male guardianship system, others continue to be apprehensive.
Speaking to Arab News, Saudi writer and women rights advocate Abdullah Al-Alami says that "the new order is not clear yet and does not state under what circumstances a woman should or should not obtain the consent of her guardian for services provided to her."
Al Alami also adds that he believes the law was introduced “to satisfy the Human Rights Commission, in relation to the international conventions to which the Kingdom has acceded.”
The latest order comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia was elected by UN member states to serve on the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Nevertheless many see the move as a leap forward, including Shoura council member, Lina Almaeena, who says that the step is part of monumental "improvements," being made in the Kingdom.
As soon as the news came out late on Thursday, thousands took to social media to share their thoughts, here's what a few of them had to say:
Many are celebrating the news
"Congratulations to the women of my country on the royal decree that grants them rights to government services without a male guardian's consent."
"God bless our government... we welcome this positive change."
"One of the most wonderful decisions ever, thank God. Better is yet to come. girls."
Others are happy but look forward to more change
"The journey of the thousand miles begins with a first step, and this is our first step."
"Even though we're all extremely happy with the latest decree, we need to continue to fight for all our rights."
"This is the simplest of her rights."
And many are hopeful for more changes in the future
"We're hopeful that soon all our rights will be granted, better is yet to come."