Saudi to lift laws banning women from traveling without a man’s permission

Published June 11th, 2015 - 11:17 GMT

Saudi Arabia is considering plans to lift restrictions on women travelling without a man’s permission, in a series of “modernizing” reforms that have proved controversial in the kingdom.

Current laws require women below the age of 45 to provide proof they have the approval of their male guardian or “mahram” before travelling, even locally, and that they are accompanied at all times.

But at the Jeddah launch of a new campaign entitled “Your Passport, Your Identity”, the director general of the kingdom’s passport office said new rules would assess travel documents based on reason for travel, not age.

Major General Sulaiman al-Yahya said new regulations were being drafted that would also mean women no longer have to apply for permission prior to travel from various government ministries – bringing laws in line with those of “advanced countries”, he said.

The impending announcement has nonetheless been met with scepticism by Saudi social media users, who mocked the existing rules in their thousands under a hashtag that read “travel controls on Saudi women”.

There are concerns that the new rules still require women to have chaperones at all times, and that the modernization will just come in the form of more advanced methods of control.

By Adam Withnall

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