Saudi women no longer need guardians’ consent to receive services

King Salman. (SPA)
Updated 05 May 2017
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Saudi women no longer need guardians’ consent to receive services

JEDDAH: Women are not required to obtain consent from their guardians for services provided to them, “unless there is a legal basis for this request in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah,” according to a royal degree issued by King Salman and reported by Okaz local daily on Thursday.
“This came in a royal directive to all concerned government agencies, after approval of proposals raised by the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to resolve issues related to human rights,” according to the royal decree.
In a statement on their website confirming Okaz report, Human Rights Commission President Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban said he welcomed the gesture saying that it reflects King Salman’s care of his people and embodies his concern to simplify procedures for women who constitute half of Saudi society and who are a major partner in the development of the society.
Many advocates of the empowerment of Saudi women hailed the announcement, as needing a male guardian’s consent can pose significant obstacle for women.
“This (male guardianship) has always been an obstacle to women and demeaning because unfortunately some guardians abused their authority over women and took advantage,” Maha Akeel, director of the public information and communication for the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), told Arab News.
It finally recognizes the right of a woman “to be her own guardian and take care of her official matters… without the need for the approval of the guardian,” she added.
According to the Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court has demanded concerned agencies to review procedures in force, Okaz reported.
It also demanded to list all procedures that require the approval of the woman’s guardian to complete a service and to provide an explanation of their statutory basis for the service within three months of the order’s issuance date.
“This means male guardianship has been lifted,” Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, senior member at the Saudi-based National Society for Human Rights told Arab News. She added it means “the legislations that demand a male guardian have been amended.”
She added that she believes the services would include women’s ability to independently represent themselves in court as well as to issue and renew passports and to travel abroad without needing a guardian’s permit.
“Shariah law does not necessitate male guardianship of women because we are perfectly competent,” Al-Abideen said.
The new order is not clear yet and does not state under what circumstances a woman should or should not obtain the consent of her guardian for services provided to her, said Saudi writer and women rights advocate Abdullah Al-Alami.
Al-Alami told Arab News that he believes the law was introduced “to satisfy the Human Rights Commission, in relation to the international conventions to which the Kingdom has acceded.”
On April 19, United Nations (UN) member states elected Saudi Arabia to serve on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Lina Almaeena, Shoura Council member. She said the move is in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to increase the number of women in the workforce and reduce unemployment.
“I think it’s a fantastic step,” Almaeena said. “Everyday we hear of an improvement. A lot of things are changing. Not only at a women’s level but at so many levels.”
Almaeena told Arab News she is sure this will include “work permit,” pointing to the present law that requires women to get a consent from their guardians to work.
The right to drive has not yet been granted to women in Saudi Arabia, although Al-Abideen said she believes it is “coming up next.”
Yet, as Al-Alami noted, the order demanded the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to provide means of transportation for women workers in accordance with the provisions of the labor law.
“In other words, no news yet on women driving, although I think it would be approved soon,” Al-Alami said, adding that there is still a need to resolve problems with respect to women’s rights.
The Shoura Council is scheduled May 9 to discuss and consider a recommendation that demands the Interior Ministry support women driving.
The OIC’s Akeel said she looks forward to more decisions for empowering women. She commended that “the decision included educating and raising women’s awareness of their rights.”
In the past five years, Saudi Arabia has been appointing more women in decision-making positions. In 2011, the late King Abdullah gave women the right to join the Shoura Council and the right to run and vote in the municipal elections, which came a reality in 2015.
In 2013, women were appointed to the Shoura Council for the first time and 30 had become members. Today, the representation of Saudi women on the Shoura Council stands at 20 percent.
Three months ago, three women — Sarah Al-Suhaimi, Rania Nashar and Latifa Al-Shabhan — were appointed in the male-dominant financial sector to the positions of the chair of the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul, CEO of Samba Financial Group and chief financial officer of Arab National Bank (ANB), respectively.
Increasing the participation of women in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent is one of the main goals in Saudi Vision 2030.


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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