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Dhaka Tribune

Saudi women allowed to live alone without male guardian

Families can no longer file lawsuits against their daughters who choose to live alone

Update : 14 Jun 2021, 07:25 PM

Saudi Arabia has officially introduced a legal amendment allowing women to live alone without permission from a “male guardian,” The Independent reported.

According to The Gulf News, this landmark rule gives single, divorced or widowed women the right to live independently in separate accommodation.

A legal statute which states that a male guardian has power over a woman's living circumstances has been scrapped by the Judicial authority with a new language stating: "An adult woman has the right to select where she lives. A woman's guardian can only report her if he has proof that she has committed a crime.” 

The text also states: “If a woman is sentenced to a jail term, she will not be handed over to her guardian after completing her term.”

“Families can no longer file lawsuits against their daughters who choose to live alone,” lawyer Naif Al Mansi told the Makkah newspaper.

“The Courts will no longer accept such cases,” he added. 

In 2019, a decree was issued allowing women to travel abroad without approval from a guardian, following a series of attempts by women in the Kingdom to escape their guardians.

The kingdom’s guardianship system considers women to be legal minors, giving their male guardians authority over their decisions. 

According to the reforms undertaken in 2019, any Saudi citizen above the age of 21 should be issued Saudi passport and they will not require any permission to travel, The Independent reports.

Under the amendments, Saudi women now have the right to register their children's births, marriages, and divorces, as well as get official family documentation. They are also allowed to be guardians of minor children.

Mariam Al Otaibi, a 32-year-old Saudi writer, won a landmark verdict in July 2020, putting an end to a three-year judicial struggle with her family, which had sued her for living and traveling alone under the country's "absenteeism" legislation.

She was charged with living and traveling alone without her father's consent. After a judge found that Mariam Al Otaibi had "the freedom to choose where to live," she won the case.

Despite a series of reforms to the guardianship system in recent years, human rights activists have been quick to point out that women's rights activists are still being silenced and that the progress made should not be overstated, The Independent reports.

In April, Saudi women shared their experiences of sexual harassment on Twitter, calling for the abolition of the Kingdom’s discriminatory male guardianship system.

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