JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR
Published — Wednesday 12 February 2014
Last update 16 March 2014 2:16 pm
The Supreme Judicial Council has decided that Saudi women no longer have to have males identify them at court hearings, and would only require their identity cards.
The council issued a circular to all the courts on Monday to announce its decision.
The move has been welcomed by Saudis.
“This has brought an end to the dilemma that both women and judges used to face when trying to identify women who appear in court. Sometimes the identifier would be the plaintiff or the defendant in the same case,” said Ali Al-Alyani, a columnist and editor in chief of Ya Hala talk show.
“The previous practice gave men the upper hand in cases where they would either refuse to identify the woman or give false information in some cases,” he said.
Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, a social activist and member of the National Society for Human Rights, said the ID cards of women previously had no value in Saudi courts.
“There is nothing in Islam that states that women need an identifier when appearing in a court in front of a judge. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the first judge in Islam and he never asked a woman to bring along an identifier,” she said.
“A judge once told me that this was a decision taken by the Ministry of Interior. I was surprised because the ID card was issued by them but was only accepted when produced by a man,” she said. Al-Abideen said many women have lost their rights in cases.
For example, a woman’s brother would take her inheritance by presenting his wife in place of her in court, she said.
She said males in these positions are the “worst financial abusers.”
Al-Alyani said other ideas suggested by the Ministry of Justice were never implemented by the courts and judges. “They talked about hiring women at the courts whose only job it would have been to verify women with their photo IDs.”
“Another idea is to use fingerprints to identify women. The Supreme Judicial Council is currently requesting this,” he said.
Lawyer Abdul Kareem Abdul Wahed said the decision would ensure justice for many women and reduce cases of identity theft. He said the courts have a backlog of cases involving women because they failed to bring males to identify them.