Female Saudi activists have long risked their lives seeking autonomy, and they are gradually reaping the fruits of their efforts.
Following mounting international pressure and scrutiny against its controversial male guardianship laws, Saudi Arabia has released royal decrees granting women over the age of 21 the right to travel and apply for passports without the consent of a male guardian. The long-overdue amendments also allow stated women to independently register a marriage, divorce or child's birth, obtain official family documents, and become legal guardians of their children.
Naturally, Saudi women celebrated the news on social media, with their reactions ranging from serious and well-composed commentary to hilarious and relatable memes. Here's how it all went down under the Arabic hashtag "no male guardianship on women's travels" on Twitter:
The excitement is real
"I'm mostly excited because some men are disappointed with the news."
Young women are already packing their bags
Funny videos are flooding the Saudi interwebs
"When my parents call me while I'm at the airport"
A somber realization: Men will still implement their patriarchal views
"When my brothers see me heading to the airport"
But women are willing to fight back
"When I'm packing my bag and my brother asks where I'm going"
Some will still get their parents' blessing before traveling
"I'm happy about the news but I know I won't do anything without my parents' consent."
It doesn't get any realer than this
"My life before the decision VS. My life after the decision."
"While I wait to turn 21"
Jokes aside, women agree this is a game-changer
"This is complicated recalibration"
"Living a new era"
The male guardianship system is a legal code influenced by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic Sharia. For years, Saudi women have been demanding its complete and total shutdown. During the past two years, Saudi Arabia has amended a number of laws in an effort to empower women in the kingdom, including opening municipal elections to female candidates, making women's verbal consent to marriage mandatory, and granting them the right to drive.
Saudi women's fight is far from over, as they continue to face social and legal restrictions in many aspects of their public and personal lives. Among other constraints, women still require male consent to get married, live on their own, leave prison or domestic abuse shelters. They are also not entitled to pass on citizenship to their children nor provide consent for the latter to marry.