JEDDAH — Several judicial reforms recently introduced in the Kingdom protect the rights of women and settle their legal disputes quickly, Saudi women lawyers and legal advisers have said.
They were reacting to a Jeddah court verdict against a Saudi man accused of slandering his ex-wife. The court awarded prison term and lashes to the man besides asking him to publicly apologize to his former wife.
“This verdict shows that the Kingdom’s judiciary is instrumental in restoring women’s rights,” they said in comments published by Okaz, a sister publication of Saudi Gazette.
They, however, pointed out that many women were not interested in litigation in the past because of long and cumbersome judicial process. Low material benefit, social prestige and defense lawyers’ move to tarnish their reputation were other reasons for the disinterest.
“Saudi legal systems are based on the Qur’an and Sunnah,” said Al-Jowhara Al-Ghamdi, legal researcher at the National Society for Human Rights. “Our judicial system gives top priority to family issues inspired by the Shariah and the basic law of governance,” she explained.
Al-Ghamdi also pointed out that Saudi judicial laws protect women’s privacy and rights, inspired by the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)”.
“It also gives her the right to appoint a lawyer to defend her case during investigation, court hearings and proceedings. It also protects her rights during marriage and divorce,” she said.
Lawyer Feryal Kanj also highlighted the progress achieved by the Saudi legal system, especially in dealing with women’s issues. “New judicial regulations have protected women’s rights and ensured speedy justice as compared to the past,” she told the Arabic daily.
Kanj said there is a lot of improvement in dealing with cases of woman divorcing her husband, alimony, custody of children, cancellation of marriage contract and provision of assistance.
“Women have also made rapid strides in various legal matters, including implementation of court verdicts in favor of them,” she said.
Lawyer Nasrin Al-Ghamdi expressed her satisfaction over the judiciary’s efforts to safeguard women’s rights. “New regulations have emphasized the need to settle women’s issues quickly,” she said, adding that the Shariah considers women as part and parcel of men.
Judicial authorities in the Kingdom have been instructed through a circular that they have to give top priority to family and marriage-related issues, Al-Ghamdi said. Courts have established women’s section to ensure their privacy and secrecy. Delaying tactics that harm women’s rights are not allowed. Executive authorities have been told to implement court verdicts on family issues quickly.
Lawyer Reem Al-Ajmi said the Kingdom’s judicial reforms were in favor of women. “In its latest decision, the Supreme Judiciary Council has stressed a woman’s right to receive documents to prove her identity. New judicial laws give priority to women issues, which are being settled quickly and efficiently compared to the past when their cases remained in the court for years,” she said.