By Ibrahim Naffee
Jeddah, (Arab News): Four Saudi women were granted licenses on Sunday by the Ministry of Justice to practice law in the Kingdom’s courts.
Up until the implementation of this decision, Saudi women who graduated from law school were previously employed as legal consultants, but were banned from practicing law in the courtroom and were not given attorney status.
They also could not own and operate law firms.
Female lawyers have often complained about their inability to use their law degrees despite years of studying and, in some cases, earning a doctorate in law.
The ministry’s move could have a wide-ranging impact on Saudi Arabia’s domestic court system. Women in divorce and custody cases have long battled a system that favors fathers and husbands.
Saudi female clients will now have an opportunity to be represented by women who can empathize with their plight. “The ministry’s decision to grant Saudi female lawyers licenses to open their own law offices will help female lawyers work without facing obstacles, especially since there are many women who prefer to deal with female lawyers,” Feriyal Al-Kinj, a female Saudi lawyer, told Arab News.
The ministry awarded a license to Arwa Al-Hujaili, a King Abdulaziz University graduate from Jeddah, to become a legal trainee in April. Al-Hujaili can practice law once she completes her three-year internship. What remains to be determined is whether these female lawyers will be protected against discrimination in the courtroom and whether they will be allowed to travel freely to perform their jobs. Al-Kinj said the ministry should establish special halls for women in courts, adding that there are 2,500 Saudi women who work as legal consultants in the Kingdom.
“Around 50 percent of my clients are male,”she said. Bayan Zahran, a female Saudi lawyer, said: “This license will be granted to female lawyers after they fulfill the requirements to practice law in the country’s courts. Such a step represents the full support of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to Saudi women.
“This license can contribute to helping female lawyers to work within this profession. Female lawyers will be able to work independently from male lawyers.”