After decades of imposing draconian rules and regulations on women, Saudi Arabia finally appears to be moving towards making life a little bit easier for its female population.
The Middle Eastern monarchy may still be one of the most stringent countries when it comes to women’s rights, but the county just approved a measure to grant divorced mothers the custody of their children — though only in cases where there is no dispute between the parents, according to reports.
While it might not seem like a huge deal in the Western world, it is important to note divorced Saudi mothers previously had to file a lawsuit to get custody of their children in an often lengthy process.
Now, women in Saudi Arabia will no longer be required to file a legal complaint. The new process was outlined in a circular to the courts from Minister of Justice and President of the Higher Council of the Judiciary Sheikh Walid Al-Samaani.
The Saudi justice ministry announced on Saturday the custody of children will automatically go to their mothers, if there is no conflict between the two former partners.
“In the past, the mother had to file a lawsuit for the right to custody of her children, and it could take a very long time, which had negative effects on the mother, the family and particularly the children,” a lawyer, Majed Garoub, told the Arab News.
“Protracted litigation over custody was hard for the mother, and there were litigation expenses too. It was a great strain for the mother, the father would be contesting her over custody, and the case would go to the court of appeal, and it could start all over again. However, now it is radically different. The priority of custody of children goes automatically to the mother.”
Divorced Saudi mothers can now manage all affairs of their children and even enjoy the right to travel with them outside the country without the permission of the judge.
“If the children are proved to be in the custody of the mother, the Judicial Department shall consider the validity of the custody and decide on its application, as required by law and order, without the need to institute a claim in the application as is the case for all the authorizations referred to in Part XIII of the legal proceedings,” according to the report.
The news comes shortly after the Ministry of Justice in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom reportedly abolished its so-called “house of obedience” article in the marriage law. The draconian ruling granted men the right to force his wife to return to their home against her will. In other words, due to this law, women were forced to stay in failed marriages and forced to go back to their husbands against their will.
Saudi Arabia has taken to grant more rights to women in recent months — including working opportunities in sectors that have been limited to men for decades and upcoming permission to drive.