Saudi Arabia on July 18, 2021 removed the requirement of a male guardian for women attending Hajj. The government ministry said that people could register online for Hajj this year including women without a mahram (male guardian).
The registration for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage began at 1 pm on July 18 and it will be available till 10 pm on June 23, 2021. Saudi Arabia has announced that it would limit this year’s pilgrimage to citizens and residents of the Kingdom, barring Muslims from abroad in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
The Saudi government also announced on July 17, 2021 that only 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform this year’s Hajj, which begins mid-July, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia ends Male Guardian Requirement clause
The move to end the male guardian requirement for women attending Hajj has been hailed by female pilgrims. It follows Saudi Arabia’s other efforts to expand women’s rights in the Kingdom.
The Saudi Arabian women till now had to depend on a male guardian, either their father, brother or husband mostly, to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage. Now they will be able to make the pilgrimage on their own.
One Jeddah-based market researcher said, “It is kind of difficult depending on someone else or asking a mahram of yours, ‘Please let us go to hajj.'” She said that previously it would have had to have been a collective decision but “now the decision is all yours, it’s not tied to somebody else.”
Hajj Pilgrimage 2021
Saudi Arabia has limited Hajj pilgrimage participants to 60,000 worshipers this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims able to physically and financially able to make the journey. In normal times, over two million pilgrims gather for the hajj.
However, this year the pilgrimage has been barred for foreign nationals. Only nationals and residents of the Saudi Kingdom have been allowed to attend this time.
The other restrictions by the Saudi Government for Hajj include:
•Only those who have been vaccinated will be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage.
•Only those aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses or COVID-19 will be allowed.
•All those wishing to perform the pilgrimage will have to apply online. However, this does not mean a final Hajj permit had been granted.
•The Hajj permit will be issued only after the application is found to meet all health conditions and regulations. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah can reject any request at any time.
•It is also compulsory this year for the applicants to acknowledge that they have not performed Hajj in the last five years.
•The applicants must acknowledge that they have not been admitted to a hospital due to chronic diseases or for dialysis treatment in the past six months.
•Only around 10,000 Muslims took part in the Hajj in July 2020.
Saudi Arabia’s other key decisions
•In 2019, Saudi Arabia allowed women over 21 years of age to travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian.
•In February 2021, the Kingdom allowed Saudi Arabian women to take up arms and enter the military and be employed as soldiers, lance corporals, corporals, sergeants and staff sergeants. The Military is among the latest professions in the Kingdom that has been opened up to female recruits.
•Saudi Arabia announced a series of new reforms since 2017 to open up more job opportunities for women and to give them more freedom.
•Prior to that, the women in Saudi Arabia had limited options when looking for work. They were mostly only allowed to take up jobs as teachers or work for a government entity.
•Saudi King Salman issued a decree in September 2017 allowing women to drive cars, bringing an end to the decades-old ban on female drivers.
•The Kingdom also allowed Saudi women to attend sports events in stadiums starting from 2018
•The nation also announced a major policy change in February 2018 thereby allowing women to their businesses without the need of showing consent from a husband or male relative.
•Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office also began recruiting women investigators for the first time in the same month and several other work positions opened up for women at airports and border crossings.
•Saudi Arabia allowed women to obtain passports and travel abroad freely without approval from a male guardian in August 2019.