To be born female in Saudi Arabia is to endure a life of discrimination…on many fronts. First of all, it is legal for men in Saudi to have up to four wives who may be as young as 10-years old, as long as they can afford to support them all. It is reported that polygamy is increasingly popular with younger generations, bolstered by their oil wealth.
Saudi women cannot leave their home unless they are escorted by a male guardian, usually their father, brother or husband. They cannot marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, or consent to elective surgery, without the approval of their guardian. They also are not permitted to drive a vehicle and women who disregard this law have been subject to punishments like flogging.
Photos of Saudi women show them covered up with only their hands and eyes showing, a custom/law that is enforced by the “religious police”.
It was not until 2005 that women were entitled to vote or run for political office, and in 2008 they were finally allowed to initiate and engage in educational studies on their own.
Family law in Saudi Arabia is equally demeaning and restrictive. A woman who socializes with a man who is not a relative can be accused of adultery, fornication, or prostitution. Sex segregation is the norm, with special female entrances and sections in banks and other public institutions. Women must sit with other women when they dine in a restaurant. It is reported that men’s sections in restaurants are usually well-furnished and welcoming, while the women’s sections are sparse and uninviting.
Divorce laws are cruel and unjust. Men may divorce their spouses anytime they want for any reason or no reason at all, while women can only divorce if their husband consents, or they obtain a judicial divorce, but only if they can prove harm or injury during their marriage. Fathers obtain custody of all children over seven-years-old.
The only obligation a man has to his ex-wife is to provide financial support for a period of four months and ten days.
Two recent divorces in Saudi have gone viral in the west, because of their unusual capriciousness. In one case an arranged marriage, which is the norm, came to a sudden end, just after the couple were declared man and wife. The couple had not met prior to the wedding and the first time the groom saw his bride was when she lifted her veil at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Her groom was taken aback when he saw his new wife’s face and according to media reports said: ““You are not the girl I want to marry. You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you.” She immediately collapsed with tears and the marriage was over.
In the second case, a Saudi man text messaged his wife to inform her that he wanted a divorce, because she ignored his previous text messages.
According to a story from Gulf News, this couple were having marriage difficulties because the husband believed his wife spent too much time on her cell phone talking to her girlfriends and ignoring him. The last straw for him was his unanswered phone messages and text messages to his wife. He knew from the app on his phone that she had received and read the text message but had not bothered to reply.
It’s no wonder the divorce rate in Saudi is 50%, but with multiple wives I guess the loss of one is not a real hardship.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang