Increase the rights of women in Saudi regime
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Respond to the following:
What are the best ways of influencing (externally and internally) the Saudi regime to increase the rights of women? What, if any, are the dangers of seeking such changes? How does culture and religion influence and impact the making of human rights public policy?
The sweeping advances for Saudi women announced by Saudi Arabia will start to dismantle the country’s discriminatory male guardianship system, Human Rights Watch said today. The changes were announced while many of the women activists who championed these reforms remain on trial or in detention in retaliation for their rights advocacy.
The legal changes, adopted by a Council of Ministers decision and endorsed by royal decree M.134, will allow Saudi women to obtain passports without the approval of a male relative, register births of their children, and benefit from new protections against employment discrimination. Saudi official sources have announced that women over 21 will no longer require male guardian permission to travel abroad, but the Council of Ministers decision makes no reference to women’s freedom to travel.
“Saudi Arabia’s long overdue legal reforms should provide Saudi women a much greater degree of control over their lives,” said Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But this is a bittersweet victory as courageous Saudi women who pushed for these changes remain behind bars or face unfair trials.”
The Council of Ministers decision on July 31, 2019, published in the official gazette on August 1, amend the Travel Documents Law, the Civil Status Law, and the Labor Law. The Wall Street Journal reported that senior Saudi officials said the changes would take effect by late October.
Saudi Arabia’s Center for International Communications and local media outlets reported that the changes will also allow women to leave the country without permission from a male guardian, but the Council of Ministers decision made no mention of changes to that requirement. Saudi authorities should immediately clarify whether Saudi women can leave the country without permission and ensure that all regulations, procedures, and online platforms will now allow it. As of August 2, the mobile application “Absher” still allowed men to permit or decline travel for female dependents.
The changes to the Travel Documents Law allow “anyone holding Saudi nationality” to obtain a Saudi passport. The regulations also eliminated a provision allowing men to include their wives and unmarried daughters on their passports. These reforms mean that women will now need to obtain an individual passport to travel abroad but will not need a male guardian to apply and obtain it for them. A fact sheet provided by the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC states that the changes to the Travel Documents Law will take effect in late August.