Saudi women to be notified of divorce via text, called a 'technical measure' by activists

Saudi women to be notified of divorce via text, called a 'technical measure' by activists
Copyright REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed/Files
By Naira DavlashyanCristina Abellan-Matamoros with Reuters
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On Sunday, the Saudi government announced they would start notifying women if their husbands filed for divorce via text message, which activists call "technological progress" rather than real progress.


Saudi women will now be notified of divorce via text message under a new law that is meant to “protect” women, said a statement by the Saudi Ministry of Justice.

The new law, which came into effect on Sunday, is supposed to stop husbands ending marriages without telling their wives.

"Saudi courts have started to send such (divorce) notifications ... a step aimed at protecting the rights of female clients," the Saudi Ministry of Justice said in a statement on their website.

Women will be able to check their marital status on the ministry’s website and look at details of any probate certificates.

This comes after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "lifted" the ban on women driving last year.

Last year, the Saudi Crown Prince "lifted" the ban on women driving

'A technical measure rather than a law'

But Rothna Begum, a senior researcher for women's rights at Human Rights Watch, says this is just a "technical measure" disguised as law.

"Saudi Arabia has no family law right now. What this actually is, is a measure. The Ministry of Justice has now instituted a technological measure, a technological system that allows women to be informed or notified when their husband has registered their divorce with the court."

'No change for women'

Begum said the new "law" doesn't change anything for women: "What that means is that women are no longer the last to know their husbands have divorced them."

The senior researcher also refutes the idea of calling the new law "progress" because it's still only men who have the right to divorce their wives whenever they want to and women will still have to apply to a court for getting the right to divorce, she explained.

Amani Al-Ahmadi, a Saudi-American feminist based in Seattle, agreed with Begum.

"I would consider it as technical progress more than anything but not really progress in the necessary divorce procedures itself," she told Euronews on Twitter message.

Begum added that the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia makes women dependent on their husbands to travel abroad, change a passport, get a job or engage in any other activity.

"It’s absolutely ludicrous that women when they are trying to divorce their husbands still have to go to their husband for such permissions which means that their husbands can then use it against them," she said.

"So this new measure hasn’t changed any of that. All it allows for is a new technological notification system for what is already a very outdated discriminatory system against women."

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