Latifa Al-Zahrani

Latifa Al-Zahrani


New Saudi Judicial Decrees favour women

The Saudi Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, the highest judicial authorities in Saudi Arabia, have adopted a set of new regulations for the benefit of wives and mothers with child custody as part of measures to prevent dispersal of families after a divorce.

The daily Saudi newspaper ‘Okaz‘ has reported that the Supreme Court recently issued a Jurisprudential Regulation according to which women would have the right to annul their marriage contract if it is the case that she cannot remain committed to her marital life, and considers this her legitimate right based on the principle of “Fearing not to abide by God’s stipulations and not giving the husband his lawful rights”.

According to ‘Okaz’, The Minister of Justice also decided to make sure that wives have the right to retain a copy of the marriage contract to guarantee that they are aware not just of their contractual stipulations, but also of their rights. This facilitates their ability to prove their rights in custody matters which can no longer be abused or otherwise disadvantaged by not having a copy of the contract.

The Saudi judicial authorities have also amended some articles to support mothers with child custody, and to facilitate and accelerate procedures which might otherwise hinder children’s interest in the custodial mothers’ welfare.

The new Decree includes unprecedented rights for custodial mothers, which now enables them to travel between countries if necessary to pursue litigation, as well as to facilitate their direct access to alimony payments without resorting to court.

There is also the unprecedented Decree issued by the Supreme Council of Judiciary which grants custodial mothers the right to deal with civil affairs associations, applying for passports, contact with embassies, organising their children’s education and arranging schools, and to carry out any procedures necessary for the benefit of their children, with the exception of their traveling outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Women have now become entitled to file any legal case in courts on their own behalf without having to get their guardian’s consent, as it is now sufficient to verify their identify via the national fingerprint ID system.

These and other recent Decrees (i.e. allowing women to drive from June 2018), have been praised by many different sectors of society, especially among women.

Nahed Bashtah, Professor of Mass Communication and veteran Saudi journalist, tweeted, “Ministry of Justice succeeded in amending and innovating several regulations to empower women, grant them their rights and to be in accordance with our fair Islamic Sharia."

Writer Hessa Mohammed Al-Sheikh said that these decisions have been long awaited in the Kingdom, especially that of allowing the dismantling a marriage contract without resorting to a specific form of marriage dissolution known as ‘khula'.

Women awarded ‘Khula in Saudi Arabia have been required to financially compensate their husbands by returning the marriage dowry and any gifts. Sometimes this may also include custody rights to their children, but now, with the new regulations, another giant step has been taken in the empowerment of Saudi women.

Women in this article

Saudi writer Nahed Saeed Mohammed Bashtah received her PhD in Cultural Media from University of Salford, UK.

A writer who is interested in women's issues. She attended several conferences on women’s and children’s issues as well as issues related to combating extremism and terrorism.

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