Saudi Arabia reforms ‘Guardian laws’, allows women to live alone without male guardian’s consent

Women in Saudi Arabia have been restricted for almost as long as the formation of the country. But in the past decade, the country seems to step in progress towards women’s rights – from allowing women to have their own ID cards in 2013 to lifting permission from a male guardian to travel in 2018, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has now officially allowed single, divorced, and widowed women to live independently in a home without requiring permission from their father or any other male guardian.

The move will allow women in Saudi Arabia to live alone without the consent of close male relatives who are normally their guardians, or wali according to Islamic law. 

Earlier every Saudi woman, irrespective of her economic or social class, was adversely affected by guardianship policies in the country. As per the law, women in Saudi Arabia necessarily required permission from a male guardian to travel, marry, and leave alone. These restrictive policies were deeply impacting a woman’s ability to pursue her career or make life decisions, as they were largely dependent on the good will of their male guardian.

But in a landmark move on Wednesday, the judicial authorities abolished Article 169, Paragraph B of the Law of Procedures before Sharia Courts, which said that an unmarried, divorced, or widowed adult female must be handed over to her male guardian.

The guardianship law in Saudi Arabia is now replaced with a new legal provision which says that “An adult woman has the right to choose where to live. A woman’s guardian can only report her if he has evidence that she has committed a crime.”

The new legal provision also stated that in case a woman is sentenced to imprisonment, she will not be handed over to her guardian after her imprisonment term finishes.

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