Riyadh: Saudi Arabia will allow women to travel abroad without approval from a male "guardian", the government said Thursday.
The landmark reform erodes the longstanding guardianship system that renders women permanently as legal minors and allows their "guardians" -- husband, father and other male relatives -- to exercise arbitrary authority over them.
The decision, following years of campaigning by activists, comes after high-profile attempts by women to escape their guardians despite a string of change including a historic decree last year that overturned the world's only ban on female motorists.
"A passport will be granted to any Saudi national who submits an application," said a government ruling published in the official gazette Umm Al Qura.
The regulation effectively allows women over the age of 21 to obtain passports and leave the country without their guardian's permission, the pro-government Okaz newspaper and other local media reported, citing senior authorities.
Women in the kingdom have long required permission from their male "guardians" to marry, renew their passports or exit the country. The pro-government Saudi Gazette newspaper hailed the decision as "one giant leap for Saudi women".
The ruling comes as Saudi Arabia faces heightened scrutiny over its human rights record, including an ongoing trial of women activists who have long demanded that the guardianship system be dismantled.
That includes Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent rights activist who marked her 30th birthday this week in a Saudi prison, campaigners said.
Alongside a sweeping crackdown on dissent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- the kingdom's de facto ruler -- spearheads a wide-ranging liberalisation drive that is aimed at transforming the conservative petro-state, long criticised for its treatment of women.
His changes include the much-celebrated decision allowing women to drive in June last year, allowing women to attend soccer games alongside men and take on jobs.
But while transforming the lives of many women, critics said the reforms will be cosmetic for many others until the kingdom abolishes the "guardianship" system that gives men arbitrary authority over their female relatives.
Some have undertaken perilous attempts to escape overseas despite the reforms.
They include 18-year-old Rahaf al-Qunun, whose live-tweeted asylum plea from a Bangkok hotel in January after she fled her Saudi family drew global attention.
Saudi officials have expressed commitment to fighting guardianship abuse, but have warned the system can only be dismantled piecemeal to prevent a backlash from arch-conservatives.
In a one-off case last year, a Saudi court ruled in favour of a 24-year-old woman who challenged her father's decision to not let her have a passport.
But until Thursday's ruling, she would have still required his permission to travel.
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Hyderabad, Dec 8: WhatsApp has blocked the helpline number of Cyberabad Police Commissionerate, forcing it to switch to an alternate number for time being, after it received a flood of messages following November 27 gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian.
Cyberabad Police Commissioner V.C. Sajjanar tweeted on Sunday that WhatsApp has blocked Cyberabad Police's WhatsApp number 9490617444. "We are now using 7901114100 for receiving citizens'' grievances temporarily," he added.
WhatsApp apparently deactivated the number after it received a flood of messages following the November 27 incident of gang-rape and murder of the veterinarian by four youths at Shamshabad on the city outskirts under the limits of Cyberabad Commissionerate.
Cyberabad Commissionerate officials have sent a mail to WhatsApp, requesting it to activate the number.
The gruesome rape and murder had shocked the entire nation.
All four accused were killed by police in an alleged ''encounter'' at Chatanpally near Shadnagar town on December 6.