August 13, 2018
Saudi women lawyers have started defending their clients in courtrooms.
By Fatima Al-Dabees
RIYADH – The Shoura Council will vote on a proposal to strengthen women lawyers and legal practitioners after four weeks when it returns to session after the summer recess.
The proposal was tabled by council members Dr. Faisal Al-Fadil, Dr. Latifa Al-Shualan, and Atta Al-Subaiti through the Islamic and Judicial Affairs Committee.
The proposal emphasizes the need to prepare adequate number of women legal practitioners to take up important positions in the judiciary in line with Saudi Vision 2030 that calls for radical measures for women empowerment.
The Public Prosecution, which now comes under the Kingdom’s judicial system, recently appointed some women as junior investigation officers.
The move comes when women in many Arab countries have occupied senior judicial positions, especially in Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco and Algeria, where women have been appointed judges since the 1960s.
“In Jordan the first female judge was named in 1996 while women have entered the judiciary since 2003 in Egypt and since 2006 in Bahrain,” a senior judicial source said.
“In some countries like France, 70 percent of judicial positions are held by women,” he added.
Dr. Suad Saleh, head of comparative jurisprudence at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Al-Azhar University, said jurisprudence scholars had discussed women’s role in judiciary in the past.
The opinions expressed in this respect could change with time and place, she said. “There is no text in Qur’an or Sunnah that bars women from practicing law,” she said.
“In Islam, men and women are allowed to exchange roles in most matters of life,” she said. The Qur’an says: “The believing men and women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give Zakat and obey Allah and His messenger.” (Qur’an 9:71)
Dr. Mohammed Tantawi, then Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, issued a religious ruling or fatwa in 2003, saying there is no religious text in Qur’an and Sunnah that bans women from taking up judicial positions.
“Dr. Tahani Al-Jibali was appointed judge at the higher constitutional court in Egypt on the basis of this fatwa,” Saleh told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
Dr. Nasser Bin Zaid Bin Dawood, a leading Saudi researcher in legal affairs, said the Saudi legal system did not insist that only men should be appointed to judicial positions.
“Saudi Arabia has signed a number of international agreements and charters that prevent discrimination against women in rights and jobs, including the International Declaration of Human Rights and UN Basic Principles on the Independence of Judiciary,” he pointed out.
According to the Saudi law, judges should be Saudi nationals with good character and conduct. They should be qualified to do the job and should have obtained a degree from a Shariah College in the Kingdom. They should also pass a test conducted by the Supreme Judiciary Council.
A judge in the appeals court should be aged at least 40 years. Applicants to other judicial jobs should be at least 22 years old, should not have been convicted of any crime and should not have been terminated from public service as punishment, Dawood said.