At the beginning of August, news media across the globe reported that Saudi Arabia was taking a significant step towards providing its women with improved mobility and rights: the Kingdom announced a royal decree that its women were now able to travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian, the new rule allowing women over the age of 21 to apply for a passport without authorization, and also giving women the right to register births, marriage or divorce.
This week, reports coming out of Saudi Arabia have revealed that not only can women now apply for their passports, the entire procedure takes a remarkable 15 minutes only. According to Saudi Gazette, the application and receival processes have been simplified, signaling an end to the days of bottlenecks and complications.
Speaking to the news site, Maj. Gen. Abed Al-Harthy, director of Passports in Makkah Region explained that the number of Saudis wishing to obtain a passport is on the rise, and women are on the forefront. Al-Harthy also pointed out that the main Jawazat office in Al-Rehab District and its affiliated centers “have been swung into action to issue passports to adult women without a permission of legal guardian. The Makkah Jawazat offices issue daily around 5,000 passports during the seasons and an average of 2,000 passports in the remaining period of the year.”
These travel-specific amendments and others are part of a sweeping wave of reforms taking over Saudi Arabia, hailed as part of the nation’s larger efforts to empower its women, providing them with increased independence to lead, participate in the country’s social and economic advancement, and pursue their own visions. They come under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who has particularly been a vocal and avid advocator of women’s rights in the Kingdom, loosening a number of restrictions on women such as on their movements, the way they dress, and access to work opportunities.