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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Bengaluru, Aug 19: Former Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy on Monday said he was not afraid of any probe into the phone tapping allegations, as he accused the BJP government of running a "transfer business" in the State.
The JDS leader's statement triggered a war of words with chief minister B Yeddiyurappa's son B Y Vijayendra saying it was not appropriate to make "baseless allegations."
Yediyurappa, however, said he was not going to react to the charges.
"Why do you want to put words in my mouth? May God bless him. The whole world knows what he has done..," he told reporters.
It all started with Kumaraswamy's purported statement on Sunday that Yediyurappa had left his sons to run the 'transfer businesses' as reported by some news channels.
Taking a serious note of it, Vijayendra tweeted the clipping of Kumaraswamy's statement as it appeared in a Kannada news channel, which read that Yediyurappa has "let his son loose to run the transfer business."
"...You cannot pass the buck on somebody else for your deeds. Stop trying to mislead the people through falsehood just because you are scared of the CBI probe into the telephone tapping case," he said.
Vijayendra also tweeted links to news reports that claimed the then PWD minister H D Revanna had transferred 700 officials on a single day last year when Kumaraswamy was the chief minister.
Later, speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Vijayendra slammed Kumaraswamy for making "baseless allegations" against him and his family.
"It is not appropriate to make baseless allegations against me and our family. It does not befit his stature," Vijayendra said.
He challenged Kumaraswamy to make the facts public if he has evidence to back his claim.
"People have seen how during your tenure governance had collapsed due to the involvement of your family. People of the state have seen how 700 staff in the PWD were given promotion and transferred," Vijayendra said.
Reacting, Kumarasawmy cautioned chief minister Yediyurappa to keep his children "within their limits."
He alleged that the chief ministers residence has turned into a "transfer market" these days.
Speaking about the governments intention to conduct a CBI probe into the alleged phone tapping, Kumaraswamy said he was not scared of any probe because he did not do anything wrong.
However, he asked the chief minister not to fix innocent people only to take revenge on him.
Days after phone tapping allegations during the previous Congress-JDS coalition government surfaced, Yediyurappa on Sunday said he will order a CBI probe citing demands by several political leaders including from the Congress.