Saudi Arabia new women rights breakthrough?

women in Saudi Arabia

SHAFAQNA – A news report in the Guardian this Tuesday read that Saudi Arabia finally agreed to provide women with a written copy of their marriage contract – a breakthrough it is said, and a sign of the kingdom’s willingness to protect women’ rights.

As a woman, I found such a reform to be particularly patronizing … As a Muslim woman I am appalled at the implication such a breakthrough entails … While I am not a scholar of Islam, I still believe the Quran to be rather abundantly explicit when it comes to women’s rights, and not allowing women access to a copy of their marriage contract constitute a violation of Biblical proportion – no pun intended!

Why would anyone deny women access to their marriage contracts in the first place? And why are we celebrating the kingdom?

“Saudi brides will now get a copy of their marriage contracts, a privilege that was previously exclusive to men in the ultra-conservative kingdom,” the kingdom’s justice ministry has announced in a statement.

According to a directorate issued by the justice minister, Walid al-Samaani, clerics who register marriage contracts will now have to hand a copy to the bride “to ensure her awareness of her rights and the terms of the contract”.

The decision aims to “protect the rights of the woman and facilitate procedures for her”, the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

It said the decision took into consideration that a woman would need a copy of her marriage contract in case of a dispute with her husband and in court.

Never mind the court, and never mind divorce … what about a degree of fairness before the law? What about giving women the dignity of their choices and their rights?

What is most saddening here is that mainstream media will look at Saudi Arabia, and assume that its interpretation of Islam – its misogyny, its egocentric chauvinism, and abominable bigotry are traits shared across the Islamic world.

While I will admit that Saudi Arabia can rule as its sees fit if in compliance with its people’s wishes, do not drag the 1.6 billion people who identify as Muslims into the conversation.

Saudi Arabia does not speak for Islam, it does not represent Islam, and it certainly does not legislate over the Islamic world.

The kingdom continues to abide by the rules of a patriarchal system which has denied women their true place in society. No more than commodities to be traded off and passed on, women in Saudi Arabia, are not occupying the place Islam granted them, and they are enjoying the rights and privileges the Quran came to set as divine laws onto men.

“God entrusted women to you, thus do not make life difficult for them,” Imam Ali (AS)

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

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