‘Just chase your dream,’ Farah Jefry, footballer and Adidas brand ambassador, tells Saudi girls

Time: 20 April 2021

Last December, the Kingdom held its very first Women’s Football League, with 24 teams from all over the Saudi Arabia competing for the honor of being the first side to take home the spoils of victory
RIYADH: Saudi sportswomen have come a long way in the past few years. Victories large and small have been hard-won in the past decade, and the Kingdom’s female population is showing no signs of slowing down.
Saudi women across the country are exploring new ways of being active, with some even choosing to take on their brothers at football, not knowing the opportunities that could arise from it.
One of the most notable names in Saudi sports is none other than the Kingdom’s current ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar. Before her diplomatic engagement, Princess Reema served as the General Sports Authority’s (GSA) deputy of planning and development, where she led diversity and inclusion, the development of the Kingdom’s sports economy, and strategic partnerships.
Last December, the Kingdom held its very first Women’s Football League, with 24 teams from all over the Saudi Arabia competing for the honor of being the first side to take home the spoils of victory.
And last Monday, Saudi women in sport gained yet another victory as one of their own landed the sponsorship deal of a lifetime. Adidas announced that the company had signed Jeddah Eagles’ midfielder Farah Jefry as a brand ambassador, making her the first Saudi sportswoman to represent it in the Middle East.
Jefry, 18, who started playing football a decade ago, told Arab News she had always dreamt of playing professionally, and that being singled out by Adidas to represent the German sports brand was a great honor.
“Adidas is such a well-known company, and I’m happy to be part of the family. Hopefully, this will pave the way for other Saudi female footballers in the future,” she said of the appointment.

Don’t be discouraged by people or opinions — there might be some obstacles, but at the end it is all worth it.

Farah Jefry, Jeddah Eagles’ midfielder

For Jefry, reaching this point in her career was not always easy, even if she had known she wanted to play since she was a child.
“I have been training with the Jeddah Eagles Ladies’ Football Club for almost 3 years,” she said. “At first it was tough because I was one of the youngest members on the team and playing with people who were a lot more experienced compared to me.”
However, Jefry took the experience as an opportunity to learn from the team’s older members, in addition to practicing at home to improve her basic skills.
“It has become a lifestyle now, and walking around with a football all day is normal for me nowadays,” she said.
According to Jefry, the hardest part of being a professional footballer is maintaining consistency, another reason she believes it important to practice as much as possible.
Jefry also counts herself lucky to have a great support system in the form of her family and friends, and says that those closest to her have always known how badly she wanted to play football at a professional level, doing whatever they could to help her make that dream a reality.
However, she says that she has had to deal with her fair share of critics, particularly those who think that there is no room for women in the sport.
“Many people keep telling me that this sport isn’t for women. However, the way I view it is that this sport isn’t for a specific gender; just like any other sport, at the end of the day I’m doing what I love and I shouldn’t be judged based on the fact that I am a woman,” she told Arab News.
She also has advice for other Saudi girls who want to be part of what she calls a “beautiful” journey.
“Don’t be discouraged by people or opinions — there might be some obstacles, but at the end it is all worth it. If you’re passionate enough just chase your dream. Everything else will align with that sooner or later,” she said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Women politicians on the rise but more must be done

Time: 06 April 2021


The coronavirus disease remains a challenge for women health-wise, economically and socially. (AFP)

March is the month of women. Starting with International Women’s Day on March 8, the month also sees the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the largest UN gathering on gender equality (March 15-26), during which the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) releases its “Women in Politics” report. This year, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also marked the month with a milestone achievement: The launch of its specialized Women Development Organization (WDO).
The reports and indications presented at this year’s CSW65 highlighted some progress for women, but also reflected great concern due to some setbacks, especially as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The two-week virtual gathering — held under the theme “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” — ended with the adoption by UN member states of the “Agreed Conclusions.” These recognize the need to significantly accelerate the pace of progress to ensure women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and in the public sector. They also recognized that temporary special measures, such as quotas and increased political will, are needed as an enabling pathway to this goal.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) remains a challenge for women — health-wise, economically and socially. The Agreed Conclusions acknowledge that the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities that perpetuate multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as racism, stigmatization and xenophobia. The data shows that women have been mostly absent from COVID-19 government task forces around the world (they make up only 24 percent of the 225 task force members examined across 137 countries). Such disproportionate representation will hamper women’s recovery from the pandemic, thus prolonging their hardships, considering that COVID-19 has had a staggering impact on women — from their roles as front-line healthcare workers to the loss of jobs, particularly as the informal sector shrinks, and the alarming spike in domestic violence and the unpaid care burden, which threatens to push 47 million additional women into extreme poverty.
Meanwhile, the IPU-UN Women map of women in politics 2021, which provides global rankings of women in executive, government and parliamentary positions as of Jan. 1, shows all-time highs for the number of countries with female heads of state or heads of government (up to 22 countries from 20 last year, with Europe being the region with the most countries led by women) and the global share of women ministers, especially in Europe and the Americas. While women ministers continue to dominate the portfolios covering social, family and women’s affairs, there has been a slight increase in their share of traditionally male-led ministerial portfolios such as defense (up from 11.9 percent to 13.5 percent) and finance (from 10.1 percent to 11.5 percent), plus a significant increase in foreign affairs (from 16.8 percent to 26 percent).
However, despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist. Progression among women holding ministerial portfolios has slowed, with a small increase from 21.3 percent in 2020 to 21.9 percent in 2021; the number of countries with no women in government has increased from nine to 12; and only 25.5 percent of national parliamentarians are women, compared to 24.9 percent last year. The ranking of the regions in terms of the percentage of women in parliament is: The Americas (32.2 percent), Europe with the Nordic countries (30.5 percent), Europe without the Nordic countries (29.1 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (25.1 percent), Asia (20.8 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (19.3 percent), and the Pacific (18 percent). The countries that have the highest percentage of women in parliament are Rwanda (61.3 percent), Cuba (53.4 percent) and the UAE (50 percent).
Although Saudi Arabia is among the countries that have no women in government, and the percentage of women in the Shoura Council remains at 20 percent, the Kingdom has made tremendous progress toward women’s empowerment, including making laws that eliminate discrimination against women, protect them from violence and support their full and effective participation in development at all levels. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes the National Transformation Program, which aimed to increase the rate of female participation in the labor market to 25 percent in 2020. This target was exceeded, with the country achieving 31 percent by the end of last year, with Saudi women assuming many leadership positions in various fields.
Meanwhile, the OIC has also gained traction on the road to female empowerment. On March 24, the Ministerial Council of the OIC’s WDO adopted its internal rules and regulations, thus setting it up to start operating. Taking off during an exceptional year, with circumstances that will have a long-term impact, the WDO has its work cut out for it. In addition to the factors highlighted in the CSW and IPU reports, women in many of the 57 member countries of the OIC (currently only 15 of them are members of the WDO) are also severely affected by conflict, instability, underdevelopment, terrorism and extremism, which not only hamper their participation in public life but also threaten their lives.

Despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist.

Maha Akeel

Numbers and percentages do not give the full picture and they can be misleading. More important than the number of women in parliament or their percentage in government and the portfolios they hold is the role they actually play, the contributions they make and their engagement in decision-making. Political, cultural, social and legislative barriers continue to hinder women’s full and effective participation in the development of societies worldwide. More concrete measures need to be taken at all levels of government and society that will enable women to play a more active role in decision-making.

Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Saudi fund gives women travel expense increase for daily commute

Time: 05 April 2021

The program was also extended to two years from the original 12 months. (File/Shutterstock)

The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF) raised the financial support offered by the “Wusool” program to SR1100 monthly ($293)
RIYADH: A fund that provides financial assistance for Saudi women to get to work has been extended.

The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF) raised the financial support offered by the “Wusool” program to SR1100 monthly ($293) from SR800 for those earning SR6000 or less, Al Eqtisadiah newspaper reported. The grant covers up to 80 percent of commute costs.

It comes as the government ushers in a number of reforms aimed at boosting the number of women at work.
The program was also extended to two years from the original 12 months, the newspaper said.
Transport is provided through companies licensed by the Ministry of Transport to ensure the safety of users.
The program covers 13 regions across the Kingdom, consisting of Riyadh, Makkah, the Eastern Province, Al Madinah, Tabuk, Asir, Qassim, Hail, Jizan, the Northern Borders, Najran, Al-Jouf, and Al-Baha.

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New initiatives helping Saudi women achieve their true potential

11/03/21

The Diriyah Gate Development Authority is leading by example as it is focusing on an inclusive approach to give women equal opportunities to prove their mettle. (Photo/Supplied)

Kingdom’s private and public sectors investing heavily to boost women’s skills
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s private and public sectors have been investing in training and mentoring programs to help boost women’s skills and careers. The idea of women’s empowerment has taken a center stage in most of the commercial and non-commercial entities in the Kingdom.

Past debates about whether women should join the workforce are over. The future is now.
Efforts are underway to support and empower female workers, so they can realize their true potential through training, reskilling and upskilling initiatives. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the term “upskilling” refers to the process of learning new skills or teaching workers new skills while “reskilling” is the process of learning new skills so workers can do a different job or instruct others on how to do a different job.

Saudi Arabia’s strong approach to women’s inclusivity in the workforce has provided many with the means to grow professionally in the private and government sectors. The new focus is on hiring those who fit the job description and can add to their skills. It is a critical strategy in the Kingdom’s ever-changing and growing employment landscape.
“I’ve always run initiatives to empower women whether that was in previous jobs or here in Saudi Arabia,” Danielle Atkins, the CMO at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, told Arab News.

Several initiatives continue to help Saudi female workers rise to prominence.

“My team’s success is a direct reflection on my own success. For me to come to Saudi and inspire a new generation of female leaders — that’s my benchmark of success,” Atkins said.
The Kingdom is determined to groom its female leaders while bringing out the passion, energy and enthusiasm of its workers. Atkins said DGDA is on a similar mission.
One of her protégées went on to become the company’s community management associate director. Ahlam Al-Thunayan, a native of Diriyah, is working within DGDA’s Community Engagement Department and is proud to be part of an all-female staff.

I’ve always run initiatives to empower women whether that was in previous jobs or here in Saudi Arabia.

Danielle Atkins, CMO at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority

“Each team member is strong and opinionated, and they are hard workers even though most are fresh graduates,” Al-Thunayan told Arab News.
DGDA has made strides in fields such as hospitality, culture and heritage, and tourism. Al-Thunayan noted that the firm focuses on each new employee’s skill set, and places them in the department best suited for them. The ongoing practice of reskilling increases growth opportunities, boosts performance, and helps the company stay competitive.
More than 40 percent of Saudi government workers are female as DGDA is playing a key role in employing women. Over half of the marketing team consists of women as the firm is also creating even more new roles within its establishment for female workers. Those who show potential and work at a high pace are selected for leadership development programs that help further their careers while also putting a focus on moving employees from one department to the next to upskill their staff.
Atkins’ advice for trainees and young graduates still new to the workforce is to do something they are passionate about.

Each team member is strong and opinionated, and they are hard workers even though most are fresh graduates.

Ahlam Al-Thunayan

“At the end of the day, you’ll excel if you are passionate,” she said. “When you are young and have not had a lot of experience in the workplace, having the opportunity to work in different departments under different leadership is a really good way to develop your skills. It also helps you understand where is the best place to grow and develop going forward.”
Reskilling and upskilling initiatives continue to help female workers rise to prominence.
Thekra Althaalabi started off as a warehouse employee at Al-Nahdi Medical Co. where she was responsible for performing an array of duties. After eight years with the company, she is now a warehouse shift and supply chain manager leading an all-female team.
“Just like everyone, I started at the very bottom,” Althaalabi told Arab News.
“Throughout my time working here, the company ensured that I received different types of training in processing incoming stock, time management, documentation and inventory workshops. The training has benefited me greatly.”
Starting off with nine female employees in 2012, the medical distribution division at the warehouse has since increased 80 women in different divisions across the supply chain. Althaalabi said employees were encouraged to take part in the different training programs that were available. Many have been able to put their training into practice and rise in ranks.
“The common feeling is that we, as female employees, have grown more confident in our jobs,” she said. “We are empowered, we have developed our skills within our area of expertise and we are improving employee capabilities.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

28/02/21

Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions. (Supplied)

Eye-catching traditional pieces that women wear on key occasions highlight the Kingdom’s diverse heritage
MAKKAH: With Saudi Arabia’s diverse and colorful cultural traditions, fashion serves as a medium where foreigners and citizens can meet.
Fashion has always been an important part of how people define themselves and others, and Saudi Arabia’s traditional clothing is no different.
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions, while others made sure they showed off traditional fashion items.

For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an “American Saudi,” caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.
Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land.
“The fashion scene was remarkable at the Saudi Cup. I am going to dub it the ‘Met Gala’ of Saudi Arabia in future. Saudi Arabia has such an old fashion heritage, so it was wonderful to be able to take a trip through history and to tell the world a story,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing.

Brandi Janow

“As a history lover, this is probably one of the best places that I can be to see so many remarkable sights with my own eyes,” she added.
Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s heritage, fashionable guests appeared in pieces that highlighted the Kingdom’s diverse heritage, including intricately embroidered daglahs for men and the heavily embellished zaboon worn by the women of Hijaz.
Janow calls Saudi Arabia her home and is “happy my journey brought me here.”

HIGHLIGHTS
• For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an ‘American Saudi,’ caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.

• Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land. She calls Saudi Arabia her home and is ‘happy my journey brought me here.’

The private sector worker is also the program director for art, culture, media and entertainment at the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kingdom and also manages Smuug, a small business where she designs and sells products based on her illustrations.

“Before I came to Saudi Arabia I had never traveled outside North America, so I was quite excited to see a new place. I cannot say that I ever experienced culture shock, but I was in awe of how different the country was from my own. It is really beautiful how big the world is, and how different (and the same) we all are,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing. I really think that humanity cannot prosper without change, growth and evolution.
“This is the natural way of life. As someone who works in the creative industry, it has been such a pleasure to watch the blossoming of talent,” said Janow.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship

25/02/21

Reema Juffali confirmed she will join Douglas Motorsport as the team returns for a sixth consecutive season in the BRDC British F3 Championship this year. (File/AFP)

Reema Juffali confirms move to Douglas Motorsport at Diriyah circuit ahead of Formula E season opener
RIYADH: Reema Juffali, Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver, has confirmed that she will join Douglas Motorsport as the team returns for a sixth consecutive season in the BRDC British F3 Championship this year.

“I’m looking forward to taking this next step of my career with Douglas Motorsport,” Juffali said in statement. “I felt right at home with the team during the test and really enjoyed driving the British F3 car. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again.”

The move comes after a successful season for Juffali in the Formula 4 British championship, with the 29-year-old previously having taken part in the TRD 86 Cup and MRF Challenge.

The announcement was made while Juffali was at the Diriyah circuit in Riyadh ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Formula E season on Friday.

“It’s going to be a big step for me driving a faster car, a better car, so that’s really exciting,” she told Arab News. “In terms of the future, I’m open to any opportunity that comes my way. I definitely want to race at the top level of motorsport, whether its in a Le Mans race, Formula E — it’s all on the cards.

“In terms of opportunity and were I see myself, I try not to plan too far ahead. I take it one step at a time with everything that I do,” she added. “But if the chance presents itself and I can do a good job at it, I’ll definitely do it and I would love to represent my country and, hopefully, inspire others.”

The BRDC British F3 Championship is the highest category of single-seater racing in the UK, and Douglas Motorsports has been taking part in the series since 2016, with 14 wins and over 60 podiums to its name.

“We’re looking forward to having Reema Juffali race with us this season,” said Team Principal Wayne Douglas. “She showed fantastic progress across her two seasons in British F4 and impressed us with her speed during our first British F3 test together. We’re excited to see what she can achieve this season.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia opens military recruitment to women

Time: 21 February 2021

All applicants must have a clean record and be medically fit for service. (Supplied)

Defense Ministry adds extra criteria for female applicants; ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available

JEDDAH: Women can now join Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, following a ruling by the Saudi Ministry of Defense that opened the way for both genders to sign up through a unified admission portal starting Sunday.

Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.
All applicants must pass admission procedures according to specified conditions, have a clean record and be medically fit for service. But some additional criteria have been added for female applicants.
Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee. Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.
The age range for first-time male applicants is between 17 and 40 while their minimum height is 160 cm. There were mixed reactions to the ministry’s new unified recruitment standards.

FASTFACTS
• Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.• Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee.

• Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.

Operating systems specialist, Halah Al-Ynabawi, said Arab countries allowing women in the military has been a controversial topic over the past 30 years.
“But today, with the vision of King Salman, he has played a big role with the inclusion of women in all fields — governmental and now military,” she told Arab News.
“In my personal opinion, it is very important for women to be in the military, where they can have an active role in our conservative society.” Rahma Al-Khayri, an information technology specialist, shared a different point of view.
“Throughout history, we have not heard of a woman who came to the field and fought,” she said. “We always hear about women healing people, or perhaps monitoring supplies in the administration and in the control units. The man is the one who fights in the field.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Attempt in Saudi Arabia to restore and reform Islamic law is welcome

17/02/21

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam.

The crown prince’s announcement is also a courageous attempt to break the state-ulema nexus that has been the cause of Muslim intellectual and economic backwardness for centuries.

It would appear from recent reports that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is making good on his 2017 promise that he would return the country to a moderate Islam and “eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts.” Last month, The Washington Post disclosed that the kingdom had started purging its textbooks of anti-Semitic and misogynistic content, and this month Reuters revealed that four new laws — the personal status law, the civil transactions law, the penal code of discretionary sanctions and the law of evidence — are being finalised with the ultimate aim of codifying the entire Muslim law in consonance with the principles of shariah and best international practices. Saudi women have welcomed the move, with lawyer Dimah Al-Sharif expressing the hope that it will empower both women and society in general.

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam. The crown prince’s announcement is also a courageous attempt to break the state-ulema nexus that has been the cause of Muslim intellectual and economic backwardness for centuries — a fact convincingly exposed by scholar Ahmet T Kuru in his new book Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment. It was this nexus that buttressed the post-Prophetic Muslim expansionism started by Muawiya in 661 CE with the launch of the Umayyad Caliphate. Questionable traditions (hadiths) were fabricated in the name of the Prophet to scripturally entrench the dynastic ambitions of the ruling family. These hadiths otherised rival tribes and communities, and marginalised women.

Quran’s original Arabic text is free of misogyny and does not encourage any kind of ethnically directed hostility. In fact, it speaks of salvific inclusivity and shows respect for non-Muslim places of worship (2:62, 5:69, 22:40), besides inviting “people of the book” (an inclusive term for followers of all religions) to coexist peacefully on the basis of commonalities in their value systems (3:64).

If Muslims find themselves estranged from this equalitarian message, it is thanks to the havoc wrought over the centuries by exegetical interpolations which relied on dubious hadiths to introduce sectarian ideas into Quranic translations. For instance, an eschatological hadith in the collection Sahih Muslim attributes an anti-Jewish comment to the Prophet. Yet another hadith in Sahih Bukhari states that the Prophet considered women to be intellectually deficient because “the evidence of two women is equal to the witness of one man.”

The anti-Jewish statements attributed to the Prophet go against the verses mentioned above, and the misogynist hadith is based on a complete misunderstanding of the verse 2:282 which instructed Muslims of that period to have their legal agreements witnessed by two men, and “if two men are not available, then a man and two women witnesses of your choice so that if one of them errs (an tazilla), the other can remind her (fatu zakkira).”

A careful reading of this verse would show that there is nothing in it that alludes to the inferiority or the intellectual inadequacy of women. Thanks to centuries of suppression, women of that period were not conversant with the intricacies of business transactions. Islam sought to change this. Men were asked to accord legal status to women by recognising their right to give evidence which was so far denied to them.

The prescription that there may be two female witnesses in case a male witness is not available, was, therefore, a convenience given to women. The verse makes it clear that the second woman will come into play only if the first one “errs” and if she does not, then the transaction will be concluded with a male and a female witness.

This is proved by the fact that in three other contexts (4:15, 24:4, & 65:2), the Quran speaks of witnesses in gender-neutral terms. Put differently, the evidentiary stipulation mentioned in 2:282 was specific to those times, and only for legal or financial transactions. It cannot be generalised and made applicable in perpetuity to lower the intellectual or legal status of women.

One hopes that the historic attempt by Saudi Arabia to theologically defenestrate anti-Semitic and misogynist content, and codify the Muslim law in line with the egalitarian principles of the Quran will go a long way in restoring the Prophetic originality of Islam and influence Muslim societies across the world to do the same.

This article first appeared in the print edition on February 17, 2021 under the title ‘A more equal faith’. The writer is an independent researcher and the secretary-general of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought

This article was first published in Indian Express

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Saudi legal reforms ‘to speed access to justice’

Time: 08 February 2021

  • Crown Prince says previous discrepancies in court rulings hurt many — especially women
  • Sweeping reforms will bring clarity and consistency to legal process

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to implement sweeping reforms to the legal system to eliminate inconsistency, speed up verdicts and make the Kingdom’s judicial institutions more efficient.

At the heart of the reforms are four new draft laws — a Personal Status Law, a Civil Transactions Law, a Penal Code for Discretionary Sanctions, and a Law of Evidence.

The new laws would eliminate discrepancies and ensure consistency in court rulings, improve the reliability of oversight mechanisms, and clarify accountability, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said.

The crown prince said discrepancies in court rulings had led to a lack of clarity, which had hurt many people, mostly women. “The absence of applicable legislation has led to discrepancies in decisions and a lack of clarity in the principles governing facts and practices,” he said.

“That resulted in prolonged litigation not based on legal texts. In addition, the absence of a clear legal framework for private and business sectors has led to ambiguity with respect to obligations.

“This was painful for many individuals and families, especially women. It also permitted some people to evade their responsibilities. This will not take place again.”

A previous draft Code of Judicial Decisions was insufficient to meet society’s needs and expectations, the crown prince said. The new draft laws will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for review before being sent to the Shoura Council, and are expected to be finalized this year.

The crown prince said the Kingdom had taken major steps in recent years to develop its legislative environment.  The aim was to preserve rights, entrench the principles of justice and transparency, protect human rights and achieve sustainable development.

The new laws adopt international judicial practices and standards in a manner that does not contradict Sharia principles, the crown prince said.

Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, president of the Supreme Judicial Council, said the new penal code would enhance the application of justice in criminal cases.

It was based on strong legal principles and modern legal practice, he said, classifying crimes into different categories according to their nature, magnitude and consequences, and the penalties applicable in each case.

Saudi lawyer Dimah Al-Sharif told Arab News the reforms would “contribute to an unprecedented standardization of the system of rulings,” particularly in relation to family law. “We will bid farewell to the wide and indefinite scope of discretion that a judge enjoys,” she said.

At the moment, she said, there were often wide discrepancies in judicial rulings on different cases in which the facts and circumstances were essentially the same. The reforms, she said, “will play a huge role in empowering not only women, but the whole of society.”

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Saudi Arabia to appoint women as court judges ‘very soon’

17/01/21

A “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.” (File/AP)

Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will “soon” be appointing women as court judges, an official said, in continued social reforms over the past years.
Hind al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said a “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.”
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment, particularly in allowing women to participate in diverse fields.
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights, particularly noting Saudi women’s participation in the Kingdom’s labor market has exceeded expectations.
Their participation rate today has reached 31 percent, and this is a very big progress. As for the civil service sectors, the Saudi women’s participation rate has increased from 39 percent to 41 percent, and most of them are in the education and health sectors in addition to other sectors,” al-Zahid said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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