Middle East

Saudi king's new order loosens guardianship rules on women

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has issued a directive to government offices that allows women greater access to government services without the consent of a male relative.

Women's rights activists say the memo, which has been circulating in government offices this week, codifies the rights of Saudi women to access a job, higher education or medical procedures, for example, without a male guardian's permission.

There are no specific laws barring women from these services, however some government bodies would request a male give his consent first.

One Saudi activist, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal, says the memo does not appear to change restrictive rules pertaining to the rights of women to obtain a passport or travel abroad without a male relative's permission.

Saudi media reported about the memo Thursday.