Saudi women have right to divorce ‘unfit’ husbands, says HRC lawyer

A human rights consultant has said women have the right to divorce if they simply find their husbands inadequate

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Saudi courts have granted divorces to at least 140 women over the past 11 months and a human rights consultant has said women have the right to divorce if they simply find their husbands inadequate or unfit.

Speaking to Al-Watan daily, Human Rights Commission’s legal consultant Omar Al-Khouly explained why courts in various parts of the Kingdom ruled in favor of women when they requested divorce.

“If a man divorces his wife, she has the right to keep her dowry. However, if the woman divorced her husband she must return the dowry. In both cases, the spouse filing for divorce has to report the reason for the divorce,” said Al-Khouly.

He said women generally do not wish to disclose the reason for divorce to the judges out of embarrassment or their wish to protect her husband’s reputation.

“Women might find out their husbands have cheated on them and are ashamed to reveal such information to the judge. Or it may be that the husband is unable to provide for the family financially,” said Al-Khouly.

He said there were instances of women seeking divorce after they discovered that their husbands had been involved in illegal or criminal activities and had previous convictions.

“A woman has the right to divorce her husband if he cannot fulfill her sexual needs. For example, if a woman discovers after marriage that her husband has a sexually transmitted disease, having intimate contacts with him would put her health in danger. In such cases, she is unable to fulfill her right for sexual pleasure and is justified in seeking a divorce,” said Al-Khouly.

He added women must understand their rights in marriage so they can make educated decisions.

“The court will never stand against a woman’s desire to divorce her husband even if she simply found him inadequate for her. It is her Islamic right to do so,” said Al-Khouly while adding that men should disclose any diseases or shortcomings they have before getting married.

“If a woman finds out her husband has some sort of disease, especially sexually transmitted disease which she was not aware of and could jeopardize her health, she has the right to file a divorce without having to return the dowry,” said Al-Khouly.


This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on September 7, 2015.

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