Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
- Women under the age of 21 in Saudi Arabia can now travel without a male guardian’s permission.
- The country has also allowed women to drive, lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, and is building a multi-billion dollar entertainment city 2.5 times the size of Disney World.
- Many of the changes have been pushed by Mohammed bin Salman who, since his promotion to crown prince in June 2017, has taken drastic steps to reform and modernize Saudi Arabia in an effort to shift the country’s economy away from oil and prepare the country for the future.
- MBS remains a polarizing figure, though, as he faced global outcry in fall 2018 over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who the CIA later concluded was assassinated on the prince’s orders.
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Woman over the age of 21 in Saudi Arabia can now travel without a male guardian’s permission.
It’s the latest example of the kingdom slowly starting to loosen restrictions on daily life in the last two years. The country also finally allowed women to drive, lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, and began building a multi-billion dollar entertainment city 2.5 times the size of Disney World.
Many of the changes have been pushed by 33-year-old Mohammed bin Salman who, since his promotion to crown prince in June 2017, has taken drastic steps to reform and modernize Saudi Arabia in an effort to shift the country’s economy away from oil and prepare the country for the future.
While he is seen as a figure who is loosening up some freedoms for women in the kingdom, he is also harshly criticized for human rights offenses. The CIA has concluded he ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in fall 2018.
But many of the changes to daily life have benefitted Saudi women and, despite how small some may seem, are proving crucial in their march toward equality. Here’s a list of the activities that are now allowed in the country.
Women can travel without a male guardian’s permission.
Hassan Ammar / AP
In an amendment to Saudi Arabian regulations, women 21 years and older are given the same rights as men when it comes to traveling. Previously, women only had a page in their male guardian’s passport.
The regulation used to say that the wife’s place of stay was her husband’s, but now its focus is on minors’ being with their father or guardian.
That means that women under the age of 21 are still subject to the guardian system. INSIDER’s Bill Bostock pointed out that many of the 1,000 Saudis who flee each year are under 21, meaning that despite the change, they still need male permission to leave the country.
These changes come after the Saudi Arabian traveling system came under fire, partly due to reporting by INSIDER, which highlighted how the system restricted women trying to flee the country.
The law changes also let women register births, marriages, divorces, or deaths. This used to only be possible for men.
Women took to the streets when Saudi Arabia lifted its longstanding ban on women driving.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Women had been campaigning for driving rights for years, and were finally allowed to get behind the wheel in July 2018. Many women had spent months preparing for the ban to be lifted by taking driving courses specifically designed for women.
Previously, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where a woman could go to jail for driving.
While many applauded the shift, several of the activists involved in the Right to Drive campaign were suddenly arrested and held without charge in May 2018. Many were later released, but people still feel threatened.
Women could vote for the first time ever in municipal elections.
Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
While municipal councils don’t hold much power in the country, the ability to vote was a symbolic moment for women. It was the first time in history they could go to the polling booths. Although, it was only the third time the country had gone to the polls at all, since it became a country in 1932.
The voting stations were still segregated, but women said it felt great to be able to vote. Seventeen women were elected.
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