Saudi women abandoned by husbands denied Social Affairs services

A woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was abandoned by her husband without any official divorce papers

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Women abandoned by their husbands are unable to benefit from the services provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs as they are neither divorcees nor widows, the only two groups the ministry provides assistance to, the Arabic daily Makkah reported.

A woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was abandoned by her husband without any official divorce papers. But since her husband is still alive and has not divorced her, she is ineligible to receive financial support.

“I am raising my two daughters alone. My husband is a drug addict who deserted me. I tried to apply for social insurance multiple times but my application was rejected every time because I am not registered as a divorcee or a widow. I am being prevented from availing any services the government offers to women without husbands,” said the woman.

Makkah Social Affairs Director Abdullah Al-Tawi said abandoned women are eligible to receive social insurance, but they have to prove their abandonment in court.

“The ministry’s social insurance includes a monthly stipend, infrequent bonuses, partial coverage of electricity bills and other services. The social insurance is given to divorcees, widows, families of prisoners and abandoned women when they prove their cases in court,” said Al-Tawi.

He added that all applications for social insurance are done electronically and the ministry looks into each case.

“Being married to a husband who does not provide an income is not grounds to receive social insurance. However, if the husband is too old or disabled, the ministry will then look into the case and take the appropriate measures,” said Al-Tawi.

The woman replied that in order to prove her husband has abandoned her, he must come to court and testify that he has indeed abandoned her. She said this is nearly impossible to accomplish and her only salvation at the moment is to accept whatever help she can get from her neighbors and friends.

Social behavior and family issues researcher Adel Al-Jaman said living under social and financial instability is the cause of more than 50 percent of women suffering from psychological problems.

“The ramifications of being financially insecure are detrimental to women's physical and emotional health. The laws and regulations for abandoned women and women with limited income must be changed so help is accessible to more people who are in need of it,” said Al-Jaman.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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