In Brief

Saudi women to get divorce confirmation by text

Justice minister says change to legal status ‘will bring transparency to divorce proceedings’

A new regulation has come into effect in Saudi Arabia meaning women can no longer be divorced without their knowledge.

As of Sunday, courts will be required to notify women by text message on rulings confirming their marital separation.

The measure approved by the justice ministry “appears aimed at curbing seemingly rampant cases of men secretly ending marriages without informing their wives”, The Times of Israel says.

Many women have filed appeals to courts over being divorced without their knowledge, lawyer Samia al-Hindi told local newspaper Okaz, and the BBC says the new law “would ensure women are fully aware of their marital status and can protect rights such as alimony”.

The message will include the divorce certificate number and the name of the relevant court where the women can pick up the documentation. Women can also inquire about their marital status through a website and view details of any probate certificates.

Saudi Justice Minister Sheikh Waleed bin Mohammed al Samaani said that by notifying women of the change to their legal status, the text message system would bring transparency to the legal proceedings around divorce.

The Daily Mail reports that divorce in the kingdom has more than doubled since 2005 to 45%, although “it remains significantly easier and more frictionless, under the kingdom's heavily gender-biased laws, for a man to divorce his wife than for a woman to divorce a man”.

From last year, mothers in Saudi Arabia are also able to retain custody of their children after divorce without filing lawsuits; part of a series of economic and social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that includes allowing women to drive, attend football matches and work in jobs traditionally reserved for men.

However, the Daily Telegraph says “increasing numbers of female activists have been detained and critics say the reforms are too piecemeal”.

Bloomberg reports “women are still shackled by a male guardianship system that requires them, according to Human Rights Watch, to receive approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married or even exit prison”.

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