Equality control

Women lawyers to appear in Saudi courts – under certain circumstances

Five years ago Prince Sultan University in Riyadh introduced Saudi Arabia’s first law degree for women. Since then they have been able to practise law as representatives and give legal advice to clients, but not to argue in court. In fact, they have not even been allowed to enter a court without a male guardian present.

But the court doors could start creaking open for Saudi women as early as November, according to reports quoting a justice ministry directive.

Saudi press reports say the regulation will apply to all women who have a law degree and at least three years’ experience, but some add that the entry of women to the courts is awaiting the “drafting of special terms and conditions”.

If this sounds a bit hazy, that’s because it is. At the time of writing the move is yet to be approved by the government and there has been no official statement on the expected change, which the kingdom has apparently been preparing since 2010.

“The delay [on this issue], like many other things, is not justified,” Saudi women’s rights activist Hatoun Al Fassi told Gulf News, noting that the government’s attitude is still vague.

Others have said that there is still a long way to go before women are seen as equals in the courtroom.

“Curious to see how judges who refuse to look at women’s faces cope,” tweets the author of the Saudiwoman’s Weblog, Eman Al Nafjan.