Saudi Justice Minister, Dr. Mohammed al-Issa, has said that female lawyers in the kingdom would soon be able to practice their profession at the ministry and across investigation and prosecution offices.
He was talking to al-Watan newspaper on Sunday when he said this move was in accordance with the Jeddah’s seventh annual Forum on Justice, which was held on Feb. 15 and resulted in a draft to allow to women enter the field of law and practice in courts.
No formal decision has yet been taken to allow women lawyers appeal in Kingdom’s courts. Saudi female lawyers have never been granted licenses to practice law in courts and the initiated draft of the Ministerial recommendation only sees female lawyers in fields restricted to family- related cases, not on general matters.
According to Arab News, Saudi women lawyers have launched a campaign to urge the Justice Ministry to expedite the issuance of rules and regulations to professionalize their work. They said the ministry has been studying these regulations for too long.
Bayan Zahran, Saudi lawyer who is leading the camping told Arab News that “Saudi women lawyers have been working in the courts for many years. They have been doing this work through ‘representation’ but without formal licenses.”
More than 2,000 legal graduates are not able to practice their specialties because the public section is not ready yet to employ them, she said. “Working in this way and without official licenses is detrimental to the profession,” she added.
The new endorsement is expected to include opening consultancy offices for legal and Sharia consultations before appealing to the court.
Lawyer Abdulah al Nasry told al-Riyadh newspaper on Monday that “social norms in conservative countries like Saudi, allows women to perform certain gender specific roles in order to ease the process of their transactions beside creating a safe and violence free environment for women to work in, which gives women a range of other working opportunities including jobs at the internal affairs units as lawyers and security investigator for women issues.”
In related news, during a radio discussion on MBC/FM on Monday, Dawood al-Shirian talked about domestic violence and other social issues faced by women in Saudi. “Many women fear to speak out, thus hiring female lawyer is essential for those who fears or would shy away from going to legal offices manned entirely by men, so opening women legal offices would solve their problem,” he added.
Internal affairs units are showing readiness to hire female lawyers but still await a royal verdict on the matter.
The ministerial announcement came at a time when Saudi Arabia is considering allowing women to enter its notorious Islamic police force reported al-Watan. Women have been banned from joining the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice until a proposal came out on Sunday.
The Commission’s director Abdul Lateef al Sheikh told al-Watan newspaper that “We are studying the prospect of allowing women to work in the commission - they could have jobs similar to those of men.”
Sheikh said the commission is contemplating recruiting women in line with instructions by King Abdullah whom, “he strongly believes is giving women their full rights.
“We want to promote virtue through good advice and prevent vice without using force.” he added.
(Written by Ikram Al Yacoub)