Saudi Arabia one of the most notoriously gender-segregated countries in the world has reportedly relaxed a number of its ‘male guardian rules’ giving women new freedoms.
According to The Star King Salman has ordered that women be allowed to travel, benefit from government services such as education and healthcare without the consent of a male guardian.
Maha Akeel, a women’s rights campaigner and a director at the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation claims this means women can also study and access health care, represent themselves in court and work in both the public and private sector without a guardian’s consent.
Mr Akeel claims that these new relaxed laws mean that the door has been opened for a discussion about the guardian system and proves women are able to take care of themselves.
Saudi Arabia has taken a number of steps since 2011 to include women in the workforce as it attempts to diversify its economy and move away from its current reliance on oil.
Under the late King Abdullah, women have been allowed onto the government advisory Shura Council, to vote in municipal elections, work in some retail and hospitality jobs and compete in the Olympic games.
Despite these steps forwards Saudi Arabia still ranked 141 out of 144 countries in the 2016 Global Gender Gap, a World Economic Forum study on how women fare in economic and political participation, health and education.
The male guardianship system currently requires women to get permission from a father, husband, or son to travel, study or marry and some men take advantage of the system for their own benefit.