Saudi women no longer need a man’s consent to carry out certain activities, local media reported on Friday.

According to local media, a royal decree has been issued by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia which states that women are not required to obtain consent from their guardians for services provided to them, “unless there is a legal basis for this request in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah.”

“This (male guardianship) has always been an obstacle to women and demeaning because unfortunately some guardians abused their authority over women and took advantage,” Arab News quoted Maha Akeel, director of the public information and communication for the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

She further added that it finally recognizes the right of a woman to be her own guardian and take care of her official matters without the need for the approval of the guardian.

Sahar Hassan Nasief, a women’s rights activist in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, welcomed royal attention to the issue but said it remained unclear what will change under the decree.

“We still need more. We still need to get rid of the guardianship completely,” she told AFP.

Nassima al-Sadah, an activist in the Gulf coast city of Qatif, said she does not think the government is about to end guardianship.

“Maybe they will just reduce it,” she said.

The order, however, does not state the circumstances under which a woman should or shouldn’t obtain the consent of her guardian for services provided to her.

Women empowerment?

Increasing the participation of women in the workforce from 22 per cent to 30 per cent is part of the Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia has in the past five years been appointing more women in decision-making positions.

Three months ago, three women – Sarah Al-Suhaimi, Rania Nashar and Latifa Al-Shabhan – were appointed in the male-dominant financial sector to the positions of the chair of the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul, CEO of Samba Financial Group and chief financial officer of Arab National Bank (ANB), respectively.