Kingdom scraps part of a law to make it legal for single, divorced and widowed women to live alone without needing permission from their family without fear of their decision being contested.

In this file photo, Sawsan Abdel Fattah, a Saudi cyclist member of the women's cyclist team, rides her bicycle in front of a banner showing Saudi King Salman (R), Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia's founder late King Abdul Aziz al Saud in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. March 6, 2021.
In this file photo, Sawsan Abdel Fattah, a Saudi cyclist member of the women's cyclist team, rides her bicycle in front of a banner showing Saudi King Salman (R), Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia's founder late King Abdul Aziz al Saud in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. March 6, 2021. (Amr Nabil / AP)

Saudi Arabia women may be able to live on their own without legally needing consent from the male head of the family or guardian.

Arab media outlets reported the restrictive kingdom has amended part of a law, essentially allowing single women – unmarried, divorced or widowed – to live separately from their families without needing guardian consent.

The law, part of Article 169 of the Law of Procedure before Sharia, was scrapped and replaced by an amendment that permits adult women, of rational mind, to live in separate housing, Gulf News reported on Wednesday, citing Makkah newspaper.

The law was amended as part of a landmark ruling in favour of 32-year-old Mariam al Otaibi, a writer, who won her case in Saudi courts to live alone. 

Otaibi spent more than 100 days in prison in Saudi Arabia after her father filed a complaint to police against her for leaving home and working without permission

She had moved from the ultraconservative province of Qassim to the capital, where supporters helped her rent an apartment and find work. 

“An adult woman has the right to choose where to live. A woman’s guardian can report her only if he has evidence proving she committed a crime,” Gulf News quoted the amended text as saying.

The changed law also means women inmates will not be forced to return to their family or male guardians upon their release.

From childhood through adulthood, every Saudi woman passes from the control of one legal guardian to another, a male relative whose decisions can determine the course of her life. Legal guardians are often a woman's father or husband, but can also be a brother or her own son.

Statistics from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development show that 577 Saudi women tried to flee their homes within Saudi Arabia in 2015. That figure is likely to be much higher in reality because many families do not report runaways for fear of social stigma.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies