Saudi Men Can No Longer Divorce Their Wives Without Telling Them

Saudi activist and campaigner Aziza al-Yousef checks her mobile phone during an interview in the capital Riyadh, on September 27, 2016. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudi Justice Ministry has announced that from Sunday onwards, courts will be required to notify women via text about proceedings in which divorces have been finalized, the BBC reported.

The new regulations could help mitigate the problem of so-called "secret divorces," a phrase used to describe the phenomenon of men ending their marriage without informing their wives.

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"Women will be notified of any changes to their marital status via text message," a spokesperson for the justice ministry said in a statement on the state-run Al-Ekhbariya news channel, the Guardian reported.

"Women in the kingdom will be able to view documents related to the termination of their marriage contracts through the ministry's website," the spokesperson added.

It is hoped that the changes to the law will mean that women are no longer be kept in the dark about their marital status.

"This is a very excellent service because previously there have been many cases in which women are divorced without knowing their status," Saudi lawyer Bayan Zahran told a local television channel, the Financial Times reported. "It is one of her most basic rights to be informed if the husband divorces her."

The ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known for being one of the most restrictive countries in the world for women. For example, if a Saudi woman wants to travel abroad, open a bank account or start certain types of businesses, she must get the permission of a male "guardian"—which could be a husband, father, son or brother, the BBC reported.

However, the country's de facto ruler—33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman—has vowed to return the country to a more "moderate" form of Islam through a number of liberalizing economic and social reforms, of which the latest regulations relating to divorce form a part of.

Among the reforms, Saudi women were given the right to drive for the first time in decades last June and they are now also allowed to enter sports stadiums. Furthermore, Bin Salman is pushing to achieve greater female participation in the workforce through a number of strategies, the Financial Times reported.

However, many critics point out that Bin Salman is an authoritarian who is intolerant of dissent and, notably, there have been severe crackdowns on female activists in recent times.

However, many critics point out that Bin Salman is an authoritarian who is intolerant of dissent. Notably, there have been several crackdowns on female activists in recent times.