Saudi women can now enjoy the privilege of traveling within the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) without passports and exit letters, a privilege confined to Saudi men before, a Saudi official confirmed on Tuesday, A UAE daily reported.
In 2010, the GCC, composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, finalized an agreement to allow their citizens to travel within the said state members using only with their identity cards.
However, this agreement did not apply to Saudi women who still needed the permission to travel from a “male guardian” even if they were allowed to obtain national identity cards.
Saudi Arabia, known for its conservative laws specifically concerning women, applies Islamic law, stating that women are not allowed to travel without a male escort, be it her husband, close relative, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, father and father-in-law.
This new travel empowerment is the latest in the series of what is believed to be of pro-women reforms under the ruling of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz since he came to power in 2005, the Gulf News reported.
Last year, he announced that women would become members of the Shura Council (parliament) in the next term and that women would have the right to run and vote in the 2015 municipal elections.
“A woman can now carry her ID card instead of the yellow card permit used previously. The finger print identity system makes it easier for a woman to enter any Gulf country,” said Lt. Col. Badr al-Malik, spokesperson for the Passport Department, a Saudi daily reported.
The Passport department introduced last year the Abshir service for customer online services, eliminating the need to visit a passport office.
Those who still have their yellow permits can still use it until it expires. People are being advised to register for online services at the e-passport site.