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Saudi Arabia

‘You’ve been divorced’: Saudi Arabia to notify women by text message when husband leaves

  • Government says policy aims at ‘protecting the rights’ of women, who often keep living with ex-husbands without realising they were divorced
  • But rights groups say knowing about a divorce does not mean a woman will get alimony or custody of her children
PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 10:52pm

Saudi Arabian courts will notify women by text message when their husbands have been granted divorces under a law that took effect on Sunday.

The initiative came about after concerns a growing number of Saudi men were not telling their wives they were divorced.

Lawyer Somayya al-Hindi told Okaz and Saudi Gazette that Saudi courts in the past heard many cases of women still living with their ex-husbands without realising they had been divorced.

“This will put an end to any attempts at cheating or impersonating the identity of women to take control of their bank accounts and property using previously issued powers of attorney,” Hindi said.

Lawyer Nasreen al-Ghamdi said Saudi courts regularly receive complaints about impersonating the identity of divorced women.

At least women will know whether they are divorced or not
Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Equality Now

“This is a huge step forward [for] divorced women,” he told the Gazette.

Women will be notified immediately when a divorce deed is issued by a court.

The Saudi Ministry of Justice described the move as “a step aimed at protecting the rights of female clients”.

It said women could visit the relevant court to get a copy of divorce papers.

“At least women will know whether they are divorced or not,” said Suad Abu-Dayyeh from global rights group, Equality Now.

But he said knowing about a divorce does not mean a woman will get alimony or custody of her children.

Despite small steps such as allowing women to drive, campaigners say the main sticking point remained Saudi Arabia’s guardianship policy, where women must have permission from a male relative to work, travel, marry, and even get some medical treatment.

“The male guardianship system is a core issue and it must be dismantled,” said Abu-Dayyeh. “This system strangles Saudi women.”

Additional reporting by Reuters