Saudi women no longer need a man's consent to carry out certain activities, local media reported on Friday.

The Arab News said a royal decree issued by King Salman ordered that women are no longer required to obtain a guardian's consent for official services “unless there is a legal basis for this request” under Islamic law.

Government agencies were advised of this directive, the report said.

Though the new royal decree provides some relief, activists say the order does not go far enough.

Saudi Arabia has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, and is the only country where they are not allowed to drive.

Under the guardianship system a male family member, normally the father, husband or brother, must grant permission for a woman's study, travel and other activities.

Sahar Hassan Nasief, a women's rights activist in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, welcomed royal attention to the issue but said it remained unclear what will change under the decree.

“We still need more. We still need to get rid of the guardianship completely,” she told AFP.

Nassima al-Sadah, an activist in the Gulf coast city of Qatif, said she does not think the government is about to end guardianship.

“Maybe they will just reduce it,” she said.

Last year thousands of people signed a petition calling for an end to guardianship.

United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston, on a visit to Saudi Arabia in January, said the guardianship system needs reform.

Activists say that even female prisoners have to be received by the guardian upon their release, meaning some have to languish in jail or a shelter beyond their sentences if the man does not want to accept them.

Although the government no longer requires guardian permission for women to work, Human Rights Watch said in an earlier report that many employers still demand guardian consent in order to hire a woman.

Some hospitals also require a guardian's approval before carrying out medical procedures, it said.

Activists say that if they have open-minded male family members, getting their consent is not a problem.

Opinion

Editorial

Breaking the deadlock
09 Dec, 2022

Breaking the deadlock

It is time for PDM and PTI to show flexibility and realise that the future of over 240m people is at stake.
A targeted killing
09 Dec, 2022

A targeted killing

IF there were any doubts about a sinister, transnational plot to kill journalist Arshad Sharif, the 592-page report...
Dog-bite epidemic
09 Dec, 2022

Dog-bite epidemic

AN exploding population of stray canines has fuelled a dog-bite epidemic in Sindh, with the provincial health...
Worsening hunger
Updated 08 Dec, 2022

Worsening hunger

THAT the dollar liquidity crunch has started hurting the import of essential items such as vegetables and raw...
Bannu beheading
Updated 08 Dec, 2022

Bannu beheading

The state must take up the cudgels and neutralise barbarism before it spreads.
Smog misery
08 Dec, 2022

Smog misery

IF 2022 has taught us anything, it is that generations of reckless disregard for Mother Nature has accrued very ...