Woman forced to divorce husband

More human rights abuses from Saudi Arabia, well, what a surprise!!

Fatima A has been forced to divorce her husband because her half-brother, her legal guardian, has claimed and won in court that her husband failed to disclose that he was from a tribe with a lower status than his wife to be. This is effectively, under Saudi Law, a breach of contract.

Both Fatima and her husband wish to remain married to each other; they have two children. Fatima is currently staying in al-Dammam Prison with one of her children rather than return to the house of her half-brother. If she contacts her now ex-husband then she will, by law, be guilty of adultery and subject to the death penalty.

In Saudi Arabia, a woman is not a human being but just a possession of her nearest male relative; having asking permission from a male guardian to travel is just the start of it.

I have been trying to imagine what my life would be life if it were to be lived at the whim of my nearest male relative; but it is impossible to compare. In the west we are lucky, with our relatively small families, that we can have close relationships with our male relatives. But neither, my uncle living in Thailand, my two cousins in Australia nor my Step-Dad would ever contemplate telling me what I could or could not do, firstly because the culture we have all grown up in means that they view me as an equal; secondly, frankly, they wouldn’t dare!! Although that last bit may be a function of the first; perhaps my character and my confidence would be altogether different if I were brought up in Saudi Arabia. So, it is hard to imagine any of them ordering me to break up my family against my wishes even if they had that legal power! I tell you something, I wouldn’t want to have been living at the whim of my (ex-)father in law; he certainly wasn’t one of my fans! Apparently he thought I was ‘too bossy’, I can’t imagine why.

But I have acquaintances, who are from traditional Bedouin families (not from Saudi Arabia, I might add, so they don’t have such direct legal power) that have up to 30 siblings – so you might end up hardly knowing the person who has effectively the power of life and death, happiness or misery!

And, no, I can’t even begin to imagine the constraints that one half of the population of Saudi Arabia have to live under. To my mind, this is surely a form of slavery.

And this is a country that we are so eager to do business with, that we suppress investigations into corruption with BAe in order to keep on the ruling Saud family’s good side.

You can find more details on Fatima’s case and how you can help from Amnesty.


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