In yet another step towards the end of Saudi Arabia's controversial male guardianship system, the kingdom has passed new laws that loosen restrictions on women, particularly when it comes to travel and family affairs.
Under the royal decrees published on Friday, Saudi women over the age of 21 will no longer need the permission of a male guardian to travel. They will also be allowed to independently apply for passports, register a marriage, divorce or child's birth, and obtain official family documents.
Additionally, the new laws stipulate that either a father or a mother can be the legal guardian of a child.
Women in the conservative Muslim kingdom have long campaigned against the male guardianship system, which treats adult women as minors and forces them to depend on their fathers, brothers, husbands, or sometimes even sons, in nearly all aspects of public life — well, not for long.
The recently-announced amendments will alleviate men's control over the lives of their female relatives, allowing the latter to travel freely and take on household responsibilities independently.
The royal decrees also expand work opportunities for women, emphasizing that "all citizens have the right to work without facing any discrimination based on gender, disability or age," according to the BBC.
Still, women continue to 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.
The royal decrees come in the wake of several high profile incidents of Saudi young women fleeing the kingdom and seeking asylum abroad.
Earlier this year, 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun attempted to escape the kingdom via Kuwait Airport due to the constraints imposed by the government and her family. Speaking to BBC's correspondent to Bangkok, Jonathan Head, al-Qunun said she feared she would be killed by her family if she is forcibly returned to the kingdom because she renounced Islam and made her escape attempt public on social media. Al-Qunun was eventually granted asylum in Canada following a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Back in April 2017, 26-year-old Dina Ali Lasloom tried to seek asylum in Australia but was arrested by airport officials during a transit stop in the Philippines. Though she claimed her family was abusive and would kill her if they had the chance, she was forcibly returned to the kingdom by her uncles.