Saudi Arabia: When Is Permission Required for Women?


I remember when I arrived in Riyadh as the wife of a Saudi things were somewhat different than what they are now.  I could not open my own personal bank account without a permission letter from my husband.  I could not work at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, National Guard Health Affairs or Saudi Arabian Television without a permission letter from my husband.  We laughed together about these regulations while he drew up and signed the requisite letter.  Ironically though, since I was a foreign woman, I was never challenged on traveling (by air) by myself even though my iqama cited my husband as my sponsor.

I reached out to a friend in the know to learn if any of the requisite permissions had changed.  Had there been any lifting of restrictions within Saudi Arabia for women needing their mahram (male guardian) approval prior to a specific activity.  Here is what I learned:

1) She can open a personal and private bank account without permission.  But she can only open a bank account for her children without permission only if she is the legal guardian of the children.

2) No advanced permission is required for a Saudi women to get treatment at the hospital.


3) No advanced permission is required to apply for a job.  However, permission may be required in order to be employed, especially if she is accepting a position in the Governmental sector.


4) Permission is required for a Saudi woman to travel and stay at a hotel by herself.  However, this law has since been relaxed for “older women.”  However, what is “older” is not clearly defined.


10 Responses

  1. It brings to mind the liberties we have here in the states and are not even aware of. Like the topic but boy does it send shivers down my spine.

  2. Interesting facts and now i feel sorry for all the women in that country.

  3. It is interesting. World is changing. Circumstances are changing. People are changing. In Britain Non- Residents were allowed to open bak account , not now. They ask for proof of residence supported by Utility Bills in their name or registration of their name on the Electoral List etc etc.
    Believe me even the british Passport holders are treated in the same manner if they are Non-residents.
    So relax .

  4. Not permission stuff, but … my friend in the UAE says her husband gets a text when she leaves the country. Another said she got a text when her children left the country.

  5. Sami – there is a sizable difference between not being able to open an account because you’re not able to prove you’re a resident and not being able to open an account as a grown woman because you need your husband’s (or heaven forbid my SON) PERMISSION.

    I’d like to see my son try to boss me around, as a mother of a friend used to tell her kids, “I brought you in this country, I’ll take you out!” lol

  6. The equality of men and women have been announced about 150 years ago when a brave woman announced this in a very theocratic society and eventually she was killed for her believes. This equality is a human principle and can not be denied by anyone. Change is affecting the very fabric of all societies and in the same way all old customs must give way to new ways of living.

  7. Regarding medical treatment, although it has been announced that there is no rule set in place for a woman requiring the permission of her guardian to receive medical treatment, the practice is still observed in many clinics and hospitals, especially when surgery or other major procedures take place. This is probably more for cultural purposes, but the practice is still fully in place.

  8. So painful reading all these, Carol but glad to know things have somewhat changed for the better. I am glad Malaysians are not subjected to such rules/law eventhough there are some quarters out there who think that it is “best” for the women to follow the same route as how you have just described.

  9. On the flip side:
    1. A man doesn’t need wives permission to take on a second, third or fourth wife
    2. A man doesn’t need his wives mutual consent to divorce, just a text message may be sufficient.
    3. A man doesn’t need his daughters consent to get her married off to some one. How ever a man can legally prevent his daughter from marrying some one.
    4. A man doesn’t need permission to go to neighboring Bahrain or elsewhere every weekend to engage in debauchery and sleep around

  10. Ibrahim
    I think it is just a matter of time, and all of those laws against women in Saudi Arabia will be changed. I am a Saudi from a conservative family, but I can see that change is coming. The new generation of Saudis both men and women are more open-minded and lots of restrictions on women are already relaxed

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