Saudi Arabia has officially allowed single, divorced or widowed women to live independently in a house without permission from father or any other male guardian, the Makkah newspaper reported.
The landmark rule gives Saudi women the freedom to stay on their own in a separate accommodation without seeking approval from their male guardians.
The Kingdom recently introduced a legal amendment allowing an adult and rational woman to live by herself in a separate house without permission from her father or male guardianship.
Judicial authorities scrapped Paragraph B under article No. 169 of the “Law of Procedure before Sharia Courts” which states that an adult single, divorced, or widowed woman shall be handed over to her male guardian.
It was replaced with a new legal text stipulating that “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.”
The text also states “If a woman is sentenced to a jail term, she will not be handed over to her guardian after completing her term.”
“Families can no longer file lawsuits against their daughters who choose to live alone,” lawyer Naif Al Mansi said in an interview with the local paper.
He said courts will no longer accept such cases, which were given a priority earlier.
In July 2020, Saudi writer Mariam Al Otaibi, 32, won a historic ruling ending a three-year legal battle against her family, which sued her for living and traveling alone under the “absenteeism” law.
She was put on trial for living and travelling alone without her father’s permission. Mariam Al Otaibi won the battle after a court ruled that she had “the right to choose where to live.”
Saudi lawyer Abdul Rahman Al Lahem was Al Otaibi’s lawyer. He earlier said the court issued a historic decision that allows women to live independently. Al Lahem said it is not a crime for a woman to live separately on her own. He thanked the woman, his client, who defended her right, and got a decision in her favour despite being involved in the case since 2017.
In his ruling, the judge said Mariam Al Otaibi did not commit a crime by moving to Riyadh, the capital, against the wishes of her family. She was arrested in April 2017 after she fled her family home in Ar Rass, 400km northwest of Riyadh, complaining of abuse by her father and brothers.
In another incident a few months ago, a Saudi court rejected a case filed by a man against his wife in which he accused her of being absent from her family’s house.
Under the old “absenteeism” law, parents were allowed to file a report with the police against a woman in the event of her disappearance or living independently, without obtaining a prior permission from the guardian.