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Saudi women to be allowed to argue cases in court
A private meeting with Saudi women in Jeddah
King Abdullah is developing the justice system
Saudi Arabia is planning to bring in a new law to allow women lawyers to argue cases in court for the first time. Saudi Arabia's Justice Minister Mohammed al-Issa, who is drafting the law, said it was part of King Abdullah's plan to develop the legal system. Mohammed al-Issa told reporters on Saturday that the bill will be issued "in the coming days" as part of King Abdullah's "plan to develop the justice system" and will allow women to appear in court on family-related cases, including divorce, child custody and other family related issues. At the moment, women can only work behind the scenes in government and court offices but cannot argue cases in court. The new legislation will also allow Saudi women to complete certain procedures without the presence of a witness.
In accordance with the new law, women will be able to complete their preliminary procedures with notaries by just presenting their IDs, said Ministry of Justice official Osama al-Mirdas, according to Arab News.
Under a system of male guardianship, Saudi Arabian women are required to be kept separate from men they are not related to; they are almost totally segregated from men in public. All women are veiled to some degree in public, they are not allowed to drive and women under forty five must receive permission from a male when they travel. Opportunities for education and employment are also dependent on male guardianship.
However the situation seems to be gradually imporving; last year, a senior cleric was removed after criticising a new mixed-sex science and technology university. The cleric, Sheikh Saad al-Shethry, described the mixing of sexes in any university as evil and a great sin. Due to strict Islamic doctrine and Sharia law, female lawyers in Saudi Arabia can currently only work inside the women's sections of law and government offices where they do not come into contact with men. All judges are male religious clerics. As part of ongoing judicial reform, the Saudi government is developing a network of specialised courts, including 'personal status' or family courts, where the women lawyers would be allowed to practice.
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