Saudi Women travel
Saudi women are not allowed to travel without permission from male guardians Reuters

Saudi Arabia is considering easing regulations on women travelling to get up to speed with "advanced countries", officials said.

Currently in the ultraconservative kingdom, women below 45 years of age are not allowed to go on a journey without previously obtaining permission from a male guardian.

The director general of the Saudi passport department, Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya, however said such regulation should be changed, with a woman's ability to move freely being based on her reason for travel rather than age, Arab News reported.

Al-Yahya said the new laws would modernise the Saudi system bringing it in line with "advanced countries".

The remarks were nevertheless met with scepticism in the Gulf kingdom, with social media users arguing the reform will not result in more freedom for women but simply change one control system for another, The Independent reported.

Women in the predominantly Sunni country, which implements a Sharia-based legal system, remain banned from driving, and can face fines or imprisonment for getting behind a wheel.

Rights groups have often attacked the kingdom for treating women as second-class citizens.

In its 2015 world report Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia's discriminatory male guardianship system was intact despite Riyadh's pledges to abolish it.

"Under this system, ministerial policies and practices forbid women from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son," HRW wrote.

"In February, a member of the Senior Council of Scholars, the highest state body for the interpretation of Islamic law, issued a fatwa stating that women are not allowed to visit a male doctor without their male guardians."