Civil status issues of women


By Hala Al-Qahtani


DURING the past 10 years the Saudi Divorce Initiative (SDI) has submitted 73 recommendations to the Shoura (Consultative) Council, demanding enactment of laws to protect the rights of women and children after divorce. The move was initiated by Prof. Haifa Khaled, whose brainchild was SDI, after winning support of the ministries that are assigned to implement divorce-related regulations.

One of the most important recommendations was the issuance of a marriage contract at the time of marriage in order for the couple to keep of a copy of it. The initiative also called for the formation of a national association to take care of divorcees’ affairs. Recommendations include granting of a three-day leave for the divorced woman employee within the framework of Labor Law.

SDI also recommended that divorce woman’s social status should be changed in official documents from divorced to unmarried woman. According to Prof. Haifa, some men believe that divorced women do not deserve any rights as they have gone out of the responsibility of their husbands.

I am a staunch advocate of the proposal that divorcees should be given a family card including names of their children instead of adding the name of a divorcee to the civil ID of her dead father, which is a despicable system that backs the identity of a dead man while denying it to a living woman. She has the right to have her own identity card, proving her motherhood and identifying her children.

Today, nine years after those endeavors most of the troubles suffered by women have become history. Woman is now given civil identity, which has become the right of every mother.

I believe that it is duty of the Civil Status Department and other service providers to extend their services ensuring high quality and standard as part of their official duty. These departments should also enure that customers are satisfied with their services. They should not keep customers stand in long queues and provide their services quickly.

The Civil Status Department has decided to open its branches to women. I would like to advice the department that they should provide women customers a comfortable atmosphere, appoint women employees to take care of them and meet their requirements. We have noticed that women have to stand in long queues just to receive an application form.

The department does not want to provide more powers to women on its Abshir account. It should have allowed women to fill the form electronically before reaching the office in order to save time. Even in 2017 women feel that the time has not changed for them; they cannot benefit from modern technology and have to fill the form by hand.

What is the use of press announcement that women would be given family status cards and they are not given appointments to fulfill their requirements easily and quickly?

A female applicant in the Eastern Province takes three weeks to one month to get an appointment. I have mentioned Eastern Province because I myself have tested the effectiveness of the system there. I have tried with all branch offices in the province and could not find an appointment date.

I visited a new office in Al-Khobar Corniche and found it was not crowded even at the peak hour of 10 a.m. This shows there is something wrong in the department’s appointment system. The female official at the reception said there is no available time for appointment and they don’t have the power to give appointment and present the issue to the senior officials at the department.

In this situation women have no other way except to bear with this problem. I sent a Twitter message to the department raising the issue and received an automated reply: “Please provide us with your name, ID number, date of birth and write the required service; we are honored to serve you.” When I sent the message again I received the same reply without any change.

Another issue I would like to highlight is the primitive way of confirming the identity of the applicant. Is it reasonable to ask a female applicant to affix her fingerprinting twice; once in the application and second on the receipt in addition to her signature and verifying her identity on the fingerprint device. Housewives have to give an undertaking that they do not have any profession and they have to put their fingerprint again on the undertaking, then what is the use of fingerprint device.

Do they follow the same verification system on men or is it just a matter of confidence

When I asked the Civil Status Department official why there is no photo on the women’s family ID. The official said it would allow a woman to use as an identity without revealing her photo to men and it ensures her privacy. I don’t think it is a matter of privacy but is an issue of security because if that card is lost other women can use it. When reminded the female official that the woman’s personal ID has her photo, she just smiled. Then, why don’t they put woman’s photo on her family card?