A Saudi court has issued an “historic” ruling in a legal case that will give women the right to live and travel freely within the kingdom without the permission of their guardian. The judgement, which will be seen as another milestone in Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s reformation of the conservative country, followed a legal battle between public prosecutors and a Saudi woman, who it appears had left the family home in defiance of her parents.
According to court documents published by Abdulrahman Al-Lahim, a lawyer in the case, Public prosecutors had been pursuing the woman, who was identified as Meriam Al-Eteebe by Al Arabiya news agency, for being absent from her family’s home and travelling to Riyadh without their permission.
Ruling in favour of Al-Eteebe the court judged that the independence of the defendant in a separate home is not considered a punishable criminal act as the “woman is a sane adult who has the right to decide where she wants to live.”
Al-Lahim is quoted as saying that he considers this a historic ruling because it represents a significant change that is underway within the kingdom’s judicial system.
“A historic ruling was issued today, affirming that independence of a sane, adult woman in a separate house is not a crime worthy of punishment,” Al-Lahim is also reported saying in a tweet. “I am very happy with this, this ruling that ends tragic stories for women.”
Speaking to Al Arabiya, Al-Lahim further stressed the significance of the decision. “This shows the creation of a new generation of judges who coexist and live in the reality that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is living in, in alignment with the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Al-Lahim. “A ruling that deals with reality, the reality of society and the reality of the entire world.”
In remarks following her victory, Al-Eteebe said that she had been fighting this battle for three years. “After long suffering that has lasted since 2017, I managed today, along with the court hero Mr. Abdulrahman al-Lahim, to take back my freedom of movement, guaranteed by the Saudi constitution, which states that every citizen has freedom of movement and stability.”
It was “not easy but worth it,” added Al-Eteebe.
This ruling is the latest in a series of decisions undertaken by the crown prince considered to be part of his vision to reform the kingdom’s economy, culture and society. Though such reforms have on the main been welcome, critics have argued that arrest and detention of Saudi women’s rights activists undermine his claim to be creating a more free and open country.