In a radical change, Saudi Arabia considers allowing women to perform Hajj without mahram
Following intense criticism from the world, the kingdom moves to relax its centuries-old restrictions on women.
According to an Arab News report, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is considering a radical change in its stringent and rigid laws against women. The report indicated that the kingdom might soon give women the liberty to perform Hajj alone without needing a male guardian or mahram.
More than a million people travel to Saudi Arabia every year to perform the pilgrimage. While it is a ‘holy duty’ for Muslims, it is a lucrative business and a logistical nightmare for the kingdom.
KSA has certain very discriminatory and rigid laws for women, keeping it under the criticism across the globe for the state of human rights there. At present, the law does not allow any woman below the age of 45 years to travel without a mahram or male guardian.
Women over the age of 45 years can travel in the form of an ”organized group”. However, they are still required to provide a permission letter to the embassy. They should have “no objection letter from her husband, son or brother authorizing her to travel for Hajj with the named group”. The letter should also be notarized, the Saudi website states.
Women who are not accompanied by their male guardians are not allowed in the country. They have been taken off flights or deported. The restriction however only applies to women of Sunni sect, as Shia scholars have agreed on the matter, allowing women to travel alone and independently if they feel safe.
Ministry of Hajj and Umrah are now conducting studies to allow visit visas for tourism and Umrah, ultimately paving way for the women. Umrah firms have raised their concerns and reservations that the stringent laws are impacting the market. Hence to save the business, the ministry must intervene.
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