RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is poised to abolish the legal requirement for a male guardian to accompany females during scholarship periods abroad, a top diplomat has revealed.
Saudi Cultural Attaché to the US Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa told Arab News on Thursday that the Ministry of Education was set to scrap the mahram (guardian) clause but said the move was yet to be officially confirmed.
Ending the male guardian rule would encourage more Saudi women to apply for places in American universities, he said, especially those who had missed the opportunity for a scholarship because of the clause.
Many female students who travel to US educational institutions with a male guardian currently receive extra allowances to help cover rent and other expenses.
If the changes take place, Al-Issa said it would be unlikely that housing payments would rise.
“I don’t think that there will be an increase in allowance for females. I also believe that being accompanied by a legal male guardian might be optional for them,” he added.
Under the planned new rules, female students already on university courses in the US with an accompanying male guardian will have the option to continue with the arrangement if they wish, said Al-Issa.
“In fact, the Saudi Cultural Mission is flexible and had exempted some students from the presence of the male guardian in the past, in case they face difficulties, especially for females who are completing their higher studies or those who have an official approval from their male guardians.”