On October 13, 2015, members of the Saudi Shoura Council voted 96-28 to amend the Civil Status Law as proposed by three female Shoura members (Princess Sarah Al-Faisal, Dr. Latifah Al-Shalan and Dr. Haya Al-Manea) and one male Shoura member (Dr. Nasser Bin Dawoud). The proposal calls for enhancing women’s citizenship and eliminating any form of discrimination against women as stipulated in the Kingdom’s laws which are based on the Shariah, especially the right of women to have their own ID cards.
Nine points were raised in the proposal, including a definition of the ID card as an official document which identifies the relationship of children under 15 and their guardians. Article 23 of the existing Civil Status Law was amended to read that each and every male and female citizen can obtain a copy of his or her ID card. Article 28 of the law regarding the ID card of each head and member of a family was amended to read that the information of a husband and wife and their family members must be registered at a Ministry of Interior Civil Status Department office to ensure that the rights of a wife are not lost should the husband marry another woman. The most important amendment focused on Article 30 of the same law regarding the domicile of a married woman and minor. Members proposed that the minor’s domicile must be the place where his father, mother or custodian is resident and not restricted to the father’s domicile as is the case now.
Mothers may report the birth of children and women must also apply for an ID card within 60 days of marrying. Documentary evidence for the matrimonial relationship should be submitted to acquire the ID card, which will be separately issued to both husband and wife. Women will also have the right to report deaths (Article 53).
The proposal calls for discarding unnecessary clauses to eliminate contradictions and to comply with pertinent procedures. It listed justifications for and aims of the amendments and emphasized the negative effects and harms of not allowing women to apply for separate and personal ID cards that preserve their dignity. Women should be issued ID cards that prove their paternity, something that will end all forms of exploitation by guardians, some of whom resort to adding names of non-biological children on their own ID cards. The proposal will also end the unjust practices some mothers are subject to because of their need for ID cards.
Undoubtedly, the amendments will be viewed as revolutionary because they introduce major legal changes relating to Saudi women who have suffered as a result of the old legal clauses. I would like to thank all Shoura members who voted in support of the proposal. Some accused those advocating the changes of being ignorant; this is wrong because Saudi people support the proposal. This was clear on social media websites as many people celebrated this victory, while some were against it and even used obscene words to vent their anger.
Because of the proposal, the blackmailing of women will come to an end. It is high time that the dignity of women was preserved. We hope that the amendments are immediately implemented and that further changes are proposed to change the guardianship law so that widows and divorced women can win custody of their children and women can assume their own responsibility and be their own guardians.