A new regulation in Saudi Arabia is set to stop Saudi women from being divorced without their knowledge.
Starting from Sunday, courts will be required to notify women by text on rulings confirming their divorces.
Local female lawyers suggest the measure will end what are known as secret divorces – cases where men end a marriage without telling their wives.
The directive would ensure women are fully aware of their marital status and can protect rights such as alimony.
However, women still remain subject to male guardianship laws.
“The new measure ensures women get their [alimony] rights when they’re divorced,” Saudi lawyer Nisreen al-Ghamdi told Bloomberg. “It also ensures that any powers of attorney issued before the divorce are not misused.”
Many women have filed appeals to courts over being divorced without their knowledge, lawyer Samia al-Hindi told local newspaper Okaz.
The new step is said to be part of economic and social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, such as allowing women to attend football matches and work in jobs traditionally reserved for men.
What can Saudi women still not do?
There are many things that Saudi women are unable to do without permission from a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother or son.
These things include, but are not limited to:
- Applying for passports
- Travelling abroad
- Getting married
- Opening a bank account
- Starting certain businesses
- Getting elective surgery
- Leaving prison
The guardianship system has helped create one of the most gender unequal countries in the Middle East.