Friday, September 28, 2012

The Need for Equality in Saudi Divorce Laws

The Saudi divorce laws remain absurdly unequal between men and women, even at a time when women are highly educated and capable of earning their own living and deciding what is best for them, including divorcing abusive spouses.

All a man has to do to divorce his wife is simply say “I divorce you” three times or in some cases even send a text message, to tell her that the marriage is over. But for a woman, divorce is a grueling, lengthy and expensive ordeal. A woman has two options, both of which are uphill battles. She can go to a Shariah court staffed by religious judges who consider women mentally incompetent, physically weak and emotionally unstable. She has to convince the court that her husband is abusive in order to obtain a divorce. The problem women face in this situation is that the judges consider men superior to women, even if they are abusive, of unsound mind, or are molesters.

Her other equally formidable choice is to “buy her freedom” from the unfit husband by repaying the original dowry money the father received from her husband for allowing the marriage. This is almost impossible for most Saudi women to do since the majority of them are not allowed to work and earn income.

All marriages in Saudi Arabia are arranged by and between men and there is no age limit according to the Islamic law. Eight-year-old girls could be forced into marrying men in their 70s and 80s.

The Saudi judicial system, which is based on unmodified Shariah law, is arbitrary and final decisions depend on the mood and judgment of the presiding judges. Despite the fact that there are debates about divorce, age limits and payments, abusive marriages are ubiquitous in Saudi Arabia. This is because of the arbitrary religious court system and the judges who consider women unworthy of respect and full citizenship.


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