HISTORICAL DECISION: Saudi Arabia allows women to travel independently, without male guardian

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Women in Saudi Arabia can now travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission, royal decrees say.

Under the new rule announced on Friday, women over the age of 21 can apply for a passport without authorisation from a male guardian.

All adults can now apply for a passport and travel, putting women on an equal footing to men.

The royal decrees also grant women the right to register child birth, marriage or divorce.

They also cover employment regulations that expands work opportunities for women. Under the rule, all citizens have the right to work without facing any discrimination based on gender, disability or age.

Until now, Saudi women have had to seek permission from a male guardian – a husband, father or other male relative to obtain a passport or travel abroad.

In 2016, he unveiled a plan to transform the economy by 2030, with the aim of increasing women’s participation in the workforce to 30% from 22%.

However there have been several high profile cases of women seeking asylum in countries such as Canada, citing claims of gender oppression.

In January, Canada granted asylum to 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun. She fled Saudi Arabia and tried to escape to Australia. She ended up in a stand-off in an airport hotel room in the Thai capital Bangkok, where she appealed for international help.

International rights groups have often claimed that women are treated as second class citizens in the country.

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