Saudi women now have access to their marriage certificates. It hardly sounds like a big deal or even news for people outside of the Gulf kingdom. But Saudi women know this step is anything but trivial.
Even in this day and age, Saudi women are forced to live under the thumbs of their male relatives. Laws pertaining to marriage and guardianship are designed in such a way that a woman is practically a non-entity without the men of her family.
Case in point: If a man leaves his wife without officially divorcing her, the government wouldn’t help her since, legally, she remains her husband’s responsibility.
More often than not, court proceedings become an unending ordeal for women due to lack of essential documents, which usually remain in the possession of the male guardian.
However, the latest order issued by Justice Minister Walid al-Samaani to clerics to hand over a second copy of the marriage certificate to the bride is expected to make things relatively easier.
The move that aims to “protect the rights of the woman and facilitate procedures for her” comes in the wake of a series of reforms in women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
Although women are still not allowed to drive cars in the ultraconservative Islamic country and are forced to cover themselves from head to toe in public, a couple of positive changes have come about ever since King Salman ascended to the throne last year.
For example, the Saudi government, for the first time in history, permitted women to run and/or vote in last December’s municipal elections. In the same month, the Interior Ministry announced family identity cards for divorced women and widows, a move that made it easier for them to access legal records, authorize medical care and register children in schools without being dependent on a male guardian.
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