Just weeks ago, Saudi Arabia announced that women would now be able to travel abroad, and obtain their own passports without the consent of a male guardian. However, the law remains that if they were to study overseas, a male guardian would have to accompany them.
However, this may be set to change, or be dismissed completely, as it was hinted by Mohammed Al Issa of the Saudi Cultural Attache in Washington, as he spoke with local press and stated, "We may soon receive instructions from the Ministry of Education to cancel the condition of a male mahram for Saudi female students wishing to study abroad.” He also added that in order for this law to be retracted, his office would need direct orders from the Saudi ministry.
Some female students have already been exempted from the law that needs them to have a male guardian when studying abroad due to their “personal circumstances”. Al Issa also explained that “Saudi women who pursue higher studies abroad are "mature enough and can bear their own responsibility without the need of a male guardian to be with them.” Additionally, he said stated that retracting the male guardianship law on female students living abroad, would solve social issues like avoiding women marrying just to be able to have a husband who they can travel overseas with.
Mohammed Al Issa’s views are a step in the right direction for Saudi women at a time when they are being celebrated in the kingdom for their achievements, and are being given rights that were once prohibited, even more so now as the male guardianship system may now slowly be coming to an end.
In the past 2 years, Saudi Arabia has come leaps and bounds when it comes to women’s rights, and one of the biggest moves was King Salman’s decision to grant women the right to drive. The announcement was made in September 2017 and women first took to the roads in their cars, with their new licenses for the first time in June 2018. Not only that, the kingdom has been creating opportunities for women to join the workforce, take on roles that were once reserved for men only, and are also now allowed to compete in major sporting events.