Saudi women to start getting divorce confirmation by text message

But they still won't be able to contest the action

Colin Drury
Sunday 06 January 2019 20:51 GMT

Women in Saudi Arabia will be notified by text message if they are divorced, the government said on Sunday as it unveiled a new law designed to stop men secretly ending their marriages.

Courts will now be required to send text messages on rulings confirming their divorce in a move aimed to ensure women are fully aware of their marital status and can protect rights such as alimony.

They will, however, still have no rights to contest the action.

But Saudi lawyers say the measure will at least end what are known as secret divorces – cases where men end a marriage without telling their wives.

“The new measure ensures women get their rights when they’re divorced,” lawyer Nisreen al-Ghamdi told Bloomberg. “It also ensures that any powers of attorney issued before the divorce are not misused.”

While Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has started to give women more rights in the conservative kingdom in recent years, including lifting a ban on women driving and allowing women to enter sports stadiums, there remain myriad restrictions on the freedoms of women living in Saudi Arabia.

They include associating with unrelated men, dressing in any way other than according to a strict national code, or opening a bank account without the permission of a husband, father, brother or son.

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The new step is part of a series of economic and social reforms pushed by the crown prince.

Other such steps have included allowing cinemas into the kingdom as well as granting permission for certain music concerts.

The drive, called Vision 2020, is an attempt to present Saudi Arabia as a modern and open country, a drive somewhat undermined by last year’s murder – in the country’s Turkish embassy – of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who had been mildly critical of the crown prince.

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