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Saudi Arabia: Law on Passports Amended to Allow Women to Travel Abroad Without a Male Guardian

(Aug. 23, 2019) On July 30, 2019, the king of Saudi Arabia issued Royal Decree M/134, amending Royal Decree M/24 of August 28, 2000, on Passports to allow Saudi women to travel abroad without a male guardian. The amendment also grants permission to Saudi women to obtain a passport without the approval of a male guardian.

Previously, article 2 of Royal Decree M/24 provided that passports could be granted only to male Saudi applicants. The amended article 2 states that “[a] passport may be granted to any person who has Saudi citizenship.”

The new amendment also repealed article 3 of Royal Decree M/24, which required that a male guardian’s wife, unmarried daughters, and minor sons be included on his passport.

Article 4 of Royal Decree M/24 stipulated that separate passports could be issued to persons under custody, trusteeship or guardianship; however, article 4 of Royal Decree M/134 repeals the term “guardianship” and provides that “a passport may be issued to persons under custody and to orphan minors.”

Dr. Eqbal Darandari, a female member of the Shoura Council (Consultative Council) who long felt it was necessary to revoke the requirement of a male guardian’s permission for Saudi women to travel has endorsed Royal Decree M/134, declaring it is a step in the right direction and necessarily in line with the September 2017 decree granting women the right to drive.

In addition to the amendments of the Passport Law, other amendments have reportedly been passed that target Royal Decree M/7 of December 12, 1986, on Civil Status with the aim of improving the legal status of Saudi women. For instance, under the modified article 30 of Royal Decree M/7, the residence address of Saudi women is no longer limited to their husband’s address. Likewise, the modified article 33 of the same Decree permits women to report the birth of their newborn children to the authorities to receive a birth certificate. Previously, only the child’s father or the closest male relative who was at least 18 years of age could report the birth to receive the birth certificate.