Although the concept of a mahram (male guardian) is not new to our society, at the time of King Abdul Aziz, there were no laws enforced related to women traveling with or without their mahram.
However, as far as I know, after some undesirable incidents, strict measures were taken to enforce laws which stated that a male guardian had to accompany a woman to the airport and show official documents to authorities that state the woman in question has permission to travel unaccompanied.
However, these laws made it difficult, if not impossible, for a female student to study abroad unaccompanied by a mahram and helped give rise to various underhanded methods to evade the system. Female teachers working in remote villages are exempt from this condition.
This is when we started to hear about temporary marriages — where women get married in order to travel with a mahram. After traveling, a divorce is arranged. Recently, there has been a rise in social networking sites for Saudi students seeking to study abroad who are interested in brief marriages in order to fulfill the requirement of a mahram.
Scholar Adnan Al-Zahrani expressed his disapproval of both the law concerning women requiring a mahram as well as temporary marriages as he feels they go against the Shariah. He believes the government can make it legal for women to travel if they wish to do so.
If we want to be realistic and honest with ourselves, let us do away with the mahram requirements. By doing so, we will prevent temporary marriages and allow women opportunities beneficial to themselves and ultimately the Kingdom.