Saudi women to start receiving divorce notice by text message

A Saudi woman takes photographs with her mobile phone in Riyadh.
A Saudi woman takes photographs with her mobile phone in Riyadh.PHOTO: AFP

BEIRUT (BLOOMBERG) - Saudi women will no longer be the last to know they've been divorced.

A new Justice Ministry regulation taking effect on Sunday (Jan 6) will make it mandatory for women to be notified by text message when a court issues their husbands divorce decrees, Saudi lawyer Nisreen al-Ghamdi said.

Currently, some men register divorce deeds at the courts without even telling their wives, Ms Ghamdi said by phone from Jeddah.

"The new measure ensures women get their rights when they're divorced," she said, referring to alimony.

"It also ensures that any powers of attorney issued before the divorce are not misused."

A copy of a Justice Ministry circular Ms Ghamdi shared said the new service meshes with ministry efforts to keep in step with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 blueprint for economic and social reforms.

Women have gained more rights since the crown prince consolidated his power a couple of years ago.

Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban on driving - the only one of its kind in the world - and has loosened many restrictions related to gender mixing and social life.

But women are still shackled by a male guardianship system that requires them, according to Human Rights Watch, to receive approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married or even exit prison.