Why are more and more Saudi women asking for divorce?

Islamic law gives married women this right so they can divorce their husbands in the event the latter refuse and according to family counselors

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Cases in Saudi Arabia involving “Khula,” a divorce at the insistence of the wife in which she has to return her dowry and pay her husband a certain amount of money to cover anything he spent on her during the duration of the marriage, are on the rise, according to a report in Arabic daily Al-Riyadh.

Islamic law gives married women this right so they can divorce their husbands in the event the latter refuse and according to family counselors, women who do bring Khula cases against their husbands have often suffered great mistreatment and abuse, leaving them only one option to escape their husbands: seek divorce.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Justice, there was an increase in the number of Khula cases last year. Riyadh courts registered 362 cases, Makkah 921, Madinah 37, Eastern Province 197, Al-Qassim 65, Asir 90, Tabuk 36, Hail 26, Jazan 129, Najran 23. The number of cases all over the Kingdom totaled 2,033 cases.

Unable to live with her husband any longer, Safiya filed a Khula case against him, which she would go on to win. She said after the Khula, many people looked down on her as if she had done something wrong.

“Khula is part of the rights that the Shariah grants to women. I was flabbergasted at how many people treated me; it was as if I had committed a crime. My coworkers were more appreciative and understanding of my decision,” she said.

Another woman, Maryam, had asked her husband to divorce her on several occasions but he refused and even went ahead and married another woman. She finally asked for a Khula after 12 years of “never-ending quarrels” and seven children.

“I lived with him for 12 years and suffered a lot in silence because of my children. My husband was forcing me to give him money and be the breadwinner of the family. He even took out loans in my name. Whenever I refused to do something he asked, he would resort to violence When I could not take it anymore, I took this decisive step,” she said.

Faris Al-Yahya, legal consultant at Hail General Court, criticized the traditions some families continue to hold on to, which make marriage difficult due to high expenses, including dowries.

“Any marriage that is based on such traditions will not last long and eventually collapse and fall apart. The result: the husband will refuse to grant a divorce and the wife, in response, will approach the courts and exercise her Khula right,” he said.

“A wife can go to a Personal Status Court and file a Khula case there. She should submit sufficient evidence that support her claims. The judge will examine the grounds and determine whether they should be taken into consideration when accepting or rejecting the Khula plea,” Al-Yahya explained.

If a judge is convinced that she has valid reasons to ask for a Khula, he will grant her one, in which case the husband will have to be given monetary compensation by the wife.

“The judge sometimes estimates the amount of money the wife should pay the husband and other times, the judge doesn’t order the woman to pay any money. This happens when the grounds or reasons for divorce are very strong and there is no hope in the marriage,” Al-Yahya added.

Omar Al-Junaidi, lawyer, called on wives to try and make their marriages work by approaching a marriage dispute reconciliation committee before filing for a Khula. Al-Junaidi said newly-wed couples who sign up for training courses before and after marriage are less likely to file for divorce.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 30, 2015.

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