RIYADH, Saudi Arabia Women in Saudi Arabia can now stay in a hotel or a furnished apartment without a male guardian, according to a government decision that comes as the country faces increasing criticism for its severe restrictions on women.
The daily Al-Watan, which is deemed close to the Saudi government, reported Monday that the ministry issued a circular to hotels asking them to accept lone women as long as their information is sent to a local police station.
The decision was adopted after a study conducted by the Interior Ministry, the Supreme Commission of Tourism and the religious police authority known as the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
Saudi women, under strict Islamic law, suffer severe restrictions on daily life: They are not allowed to be anywhere with an unrelated man, cannot drive, appear before a judge without a male representative, or travel abroad without a male guardian's permission.
The newspaper interviewed some Saudi women who complained that they had been severely inconvenienced by the rules banning them from staying in the hotels alone.
It quoted a woman identified as saying that she once arrived late at night at King Fahd airport on an internal flight and was denied a hotel room because she was alone. Another woman, Fatima Ibrahim, said her son-in-law quarreled with his wife and daughters and threw them out of the house. When they tried to get a hotel room, they were asked to get a permission from the police.
Saudi Arabia has come under intense international criticism, including from its ally, the United States, especially over its treatment of women in the kingdom's legal system. King Abdullah pardoned a rape victim last month after her case sparked international outcry because she had been sentenced to lashes and jail time for being in a car with a a man who was not her relative.