In a move that is being hailed as an advancement in women’s rights, Saudi Arabia now requires that women be informed by text message that their husbands have divorced them.
The new government regulation was announced January 6, 2019. It requires notification to ex-wives once the divorce decree is finalized. It does not, however, require any notice prior to that time. In other words, the first time a woman learns that her marriage is on shaky grounds may be when it has already been legally dissolved.
The fact that this is described as a breakthrough for women’s rights can be understood when you realize the nation has only allowed women to have drivers licenses since June 2018, and still may only drive with appropriate male supervision.
The rationale behind the new regulation comes from the inequality in the way Saudi divorce law is applied. The law permits husbands to obtain a divorce with a verbal statement made in court. In other words, they just have to go to court and announce that they wish to be divorced. Women, on the other hand, can only get divorced by providing a reason and proving abuse. This practice led to “secret divorces” where the men would be legally free to pursue other relationships while continuing to live with their ex-wives. The ex-wives, not knowing they had been divorced, were unaware of their right to alimony payments. Men have also continued to draw on their ex-wives’ finances in some situations.
Under the new regulation, it is mandatory for a woman to be notified by text message when a court issues her husband’s divorce decree.
This assumes, of course, that their husbands let them have cell phones in the first place.
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