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Saudi women lawyers: Case pending

Last updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 1:40 PM



Somayya Jabarti

 

IS it a surprise that November 2012, the month when Saudi women lawyers were supposed to be issued licenses to practice in court, has come and is almost gone with no action at all?

Punctuality, action and progress, especially where women are concerned, all in one go?  Oh yes, too much to expect. Such cups surely “spilleth over”, over and over and over — before we ever get a first sip.

We’re soon to complete two months since the news of Saudi women lawyers being issued licenses to practice in our courts circulated in world media.

When the news spread, fireworks lit up the social media-sphere and applause filled the air in — premature — celebration.

Asking around, the responses have been cynical describing the news as “just words”, “a morphine dosage” or that it was “probably retracted or regretted”.

At the time, of course, no relevant details were included: The exact when, the where and how to.  It was mentioned somewhere that the only condition was that the woman lawyer must have three years’ experience working in a law firm. A piece of cake it is (not) because it is (not) absolutely unquestionably easy for young women law graduates to land internships at local law firms, let alone jobs.  Right.

Surprise, surprise.  Oh yes, women pleading cases in our courts on behalf of their clients is (not) and will (not) be doable because countless women clients are already (not) there in our courts with their faces and voices, (not) uncovered and (not) un-gagged (!!)

For the record, out of all the universities available for women in the Kingdom, only one, King Saud University, has a women’s law department born a mere few years ago. 

With everything clear and concretized, let us for a minute draw upon creativity and logic, and imagine for a moment that Saudi women were in our courts now as fully fledged, licensed and practicing lawyers.  What would be the agenda, a to-do list if you want, of issues these lawyers would need to initially address in our courts? (Oh, November 2012 mourn the glory that was allegedly yours!) 

Do not worry I am not asking that we touch upon the entire tip of the iceberg. No, just a tip of the tip. 

Were sense common, surely our licensed women lawyers would initially see to it that a Saudi woman is enabled:

  • To enroll at a university or any educational institution without male guardian consent.

 

  • To renew and receive her passport independently  instead of the male guardian having to do it (after all a national ID card may be issued to her from the age of 16).

 

  • To obtain citizenship for her children from a non-Saudi husband.

 

 

  • To grant her non-Saudi spouse and their children inheritance in the case of her demise.

 

 

  • To open a bank account for her child.

 

 

  • To rent and buy property without male guardian involvement.

 

  • To drive. Or to recruit and employ a driver without having to be an “orphan” (or from a “male-less” family), a widow or a divorcée.

 

 

  • To bail a woman out of jail or “receive” a woman from jail her due time served.

 

  • To not be “hung” in her divorce case for years at court (while the other party is remarried again, again and again).

 

 

  • To get divorced without the need of male representation.

 

 

  • To win and maintain custody of her children.

 

 

  • To ensure her due alimony is delivered and enough of it too.

 

 

  • To be relieved of her male guardian, at least when he is behind bars or a drug addict, mentally impaired or unstable, neglectful, incompatible, i.e. unfit in ways God and world courts legally recognize.


Oh, I concur, the list is outrageous! (Not) too much for a tip of the tip? Certainly, it is in this day and age plainly outrageous (not) for its mere length, of course.

At the end and in summation, there are two words that say it all:

God’s justice.
Women’s rights.
Our birthright.


Oh, and the status of Saudi women lawyers?

It is another case piled up on top of countless others: Still pending.
 


— The author can be reached at sjabarti@saudigazette.com.sa

 
   
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