Saudi Arabia: Relaxing rules for women staying in hotels

Saudi authorities, breaking with religious codes that require women to be accompanied by a male guardian, have decided to allow women to stay in hotels on their own, a newspaper reported yesterday.
A royal decree allowed the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to lay down new regulations simply requiring women to show personal identification including a photograph, which hotel managers must register with local police, Al Watan said.
Tribal customs and hardline religious strictures limit women's movement in the conservative state, the only country in the world where women are forbidden from driving. Saudi women can face harassment from the religious police if they are not accompanied in public areas by a male relative who acts as her "guardian".

The rules are less strictly enforced for foreigners and in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's most liberal city.

The paper said the rules, set out in last month's decree, were worked out in coordination with the Ministry of the Interior and the religious police organisation, two bodies who rights activists say stand in the way of improved women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

22 January, 2008