Mashael Al Qahtani

Mashael Al Qahtani

Journalist

New role for Saudi women on the bench

Saudi Arabia’s social reform plan under vision 2030 is materializing in a slew of concrete developments and announcements, the latest of which tackles a pain point and wide gap in the country’s judiciary system. The Saudi General Prosecution has just opened doors for women, starting with job vacancies across the “Investigation lieutenant” roles.  It is one of several decisions by Saudi leadership aimed at widening the scope and sector coverage of women’s workforce contribution.

It is also a welcome development for a more diverse and gender-agnostic bench; a necessary balance to help overcome obstacles male investigators typically faced when interrogating women, and to help broaden the judiciary system’s breadth in its understanding of women, family and child issues and conflicts that are, naturally, best managed – and resolved – by women themselves.

Qualified candidates for the Investigation Lieutenant role must hold a Saudi nationality, a solid track record of good conduct, and a bachelor’s degree of law and Sharia sciences – or any equivalent certificate – from the kingdom. Female applicants must hold a certificate in judicialsystems specializations from any Saudi university, and must have passed with at least a general grade of “good”.

Additionally, they are required to pass a bespoke test for the appointment to the role.

The Investigation Lieutenant role is a critical entry point for anyone wishing to pursue a career at the Saudi Investigation Commission and General Prosecution.

Typically, employees appointed to the role undergo six months of extensive and intensive training prior to taking on their duties. The role’s mandate covers carrying out investigations under the supervision of higher military rank personnel, filing case proceedings, inspecting detention places, and supervising the execution of judgments.

Far from tokenism, the Saudi Prosecution stresses on that it will apply strict criteria in selecting the most qualified, efficient and competent female applicants to fill the role, whereby the latter will undergo a series of tests and qualifying interviews.

Commenting on this development, Fatima Baashen, the official spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, tweeted that women’s inclusion in the general prosecution will create a positive ripple effect, driving awareness around family issues, and scaling women’s participation in Saudi Arabia’s labor force and public sector.

Women employed by the general prosecutor’s office will be supporting investigators across all functions, and help with the build and design of a female-only setup for investigative units –in turn, alleviatingtensions for female suspects who were reluctant to cooperate with male investigators.

Efforts to include women in its talent infrastructure are part of a larger overhaul undertaken by the Saudi general prosecution. It is investing and betting on women’s competitive skillsets and unique understanding of key issues that support their ability to conduct investigations and initiate case proceedings in the general prosecution.

On a larger scale, women’s inclusion in the justice system comes after a series of decisions by Saudi leadership to empower them socially and economically; from the recent decree allowing them to obtain driver’s licenses as of mid-2018, to equal access to sports fields and events, to, more recently, permission to finish their governmental paperwork without their guardian’s consent. Moreover, the country’s both public and private sector have made concerted efforts in appointing women to leadership positions – ones that they have taken on with confidence and competence.

Women in this article

Fatima Salem Baashen, spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington. She is the first Saudi woman to be appointed to this high position; she took office in September 2017.

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