Saudi courts will notify women by text message when they get divorced, in a new regulation that took effect on Sunday, officials said.
The measure approved by the justice ministry appears aimed at curbing seemingly rampant cases of men secretly ending marriages without informing their wives.
“Women… will be notified of any changes to their marital status via text message,” the justice ministry said in a statement carried by state-run Al-Ekhbariya news channel and other local media.
“Women in the kingdom will be able to view documents related to the termination of their marriage contracts through the ministry’s website.”
Why This Matters
The move comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler spearheads a liberalization drive in the conservative kingdom, which has some of the world’s toughest restrictions on women.
In June last year, women celebrated taking the wheel for the first time in decades as the kingdom overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists.
The kingdom has also allowed women to enter sports stadiums, previously a male-only arena, and is pushing for greater participation of women in the workforce as it seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
But in tandem with the reforms, the kingdom has seen a wave of arrests of women activists in recent months as it steps up a crackdown on dissent.
The country also faces criticism over its male guardianship system, which allows men to exercise arbitrary authority to make decisions on behalf of their female relatives.
More on the Subject
On Sunday, an 18-year-old Saudi woman held at Bangkok airport said she would be killed if she was repatriated by Thai immigration officials.
Pleading her case on Twitter, the woman — who wanted to seek asylum in Australia — said she was trying to flee her family, who subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.
#UNHCR needs urgently demand access to Rahaf al-Qunun, the Saudi woman facing "honor-related" violence if she is forced back to #SaudiArabia. She's asking now for asylum, why can't UNHCR get out to the airport and demand #Thailand let them see her? There's no time to waste! pic.twitter.com/ECFn1nrfcO
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) January 6, 2019
Rahaf Mohammed M Alqunun told AFP she was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she arrived in Suvarnabhumi airport and her travel document was forcibly taken from her, a claim backed by Human Rights Watch.
“They took my passport,” she told AFP, adding that her male guardian had reported her for traveling “without his permission”.
Rahaf said she was trying to flee her family, who subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.
“My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair,” she said, adding that she is certain she will be imprisoned if she is sent back. “I’m sure 100 percent they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail,” she said, adding that she was “scared” and “losing hope.”
Rahaf was stopped from entering Thailand when she flew in from Kuwait on Sunday, Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told AFP.
“She had no further documents such as return ticket or money,” he said, adding that Rahaf was currently in an airport hotel.
“She ran away from her family to avoid marriage and she is concerned she may be in trouble returning to Saudi Arabia. We sent officials to take care of her now,” he said.
He added that Thai authorities had contacted the “Saudi Arabia embassy to coordinate.”