In what is touted as a big step towards gender justice, women in Saudi Arabia will now be notified via text message that their marriages have ended under a new regulation that seeks to end the practice of secret divorce, whereby men in the kingdom could unilaterally end their marriage without informing their wives, The Guardian reported.
“Women ... will be notified of any changes to their marital status via text message,” the country’s justice ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Al-Ekhbariya news channel and other local media.
“Women in the kingdom will be able to view documents related to the termination of their marriage contracts through the ministry’s website.”
Consistent with the Islamic theocratic system that governs it, the kingdom follows a male guardianship system which has helped perpetuate a hugely discriminatory gender based system that oppressed millions of women.
Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East and North Africa consultant for gender rights group Equality Now, called the new measure “a step in the right direction.”
“In most Arab countries, men can just divorce their wives,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “At least women will know whether they are divorced or not.”
The new step is supposedly part of ‘sweeping gender reforms’ initiated by by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Islamic Kingdom has in recent times lifted gender-based prohibition on driving and also permitted women to enter sports stadiums. Saudi women were also allowed inside movie theatres for the first time in 35 years.
International human rights groups have accused the country of torturing and sexually harassing several female activists, some of whom were detained in May while protesting the driving ban.
According to a report in BBC, without male supervision Saudi women are still not permitted to:
- Apply for passports
- Travel abroad
- Get married
- Open a bank account
- Start certain businesses
- Get elective surgery
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