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Saudi Arabia to Loosen Male Guardianship System Restrictions

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Saudi Arabia currently has a male guardianship system in place that gives men considerable power over women. Under it, all Saudi women are required to have a male “guardian”—a father, uncle, husband, brother or son—who has ultimate control over when and where they can travel and who they marry, among other things.

That could soon change, according to the Wall Street Journal. The news outlet reports that this year the Kingdom plans to loosen the regulations on a woman’s ability to travel, calling it “a rare step against the system of male domination deeply rooted in Saudi society.”

According to the Journal, the plan would “end guardianship laws pertaining to travel for men and women over 18 years old, allowing them to leave the country without the consent of a designated male family member.”

Other parts of the system, such as the fact that a woman must obtain permission from her guardian to marry, will remain intact.

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A Saudi woman cheers for her football team at King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.

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“There is no question that the leadership, the government and the people want to see this system changed,” a Saudi royal family member told the outlet. “The current discussion is about how to make this happen as soon as possible without causing a stir.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers was lifted and, several months later, women were allowed to attend a soccer game at a public stadium. When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was asked about guardianship system by The Atlantic, he said he wanted to “figure out a way to treat this that doesn’t harm families and doesn’t harm the culture.”

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