A move by Saudi Arabia to give women more control over their life choices by relaxing a controversial male guardian system has been welcomed as another small step for women in the conservative kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is well known to be one of the world’s most gender-segregated nations, where women live under the supervision of a male guardian, cannot drive, and must wear head-to-toe black garments in public.
Women need approval from a man to travel, study and get some health treatments.
But local media reported this week that King Salman has issued an order allowing women to benefit from government services such as education and healthcare without the consent of a male guardian.
This means women could, in some circumstances, study and access hospital treatment, work in the public and private sector and represent themselves in court without a guardian’s consent, according to Maha Akeel, a women’s rights campaigner and a director at the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
He said: ‘Now at least it opens the door for discussion on the guardian system.
‘Women are independent and can take care of themselves.’