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Women Empowerment in Saudi Arabia -- Dawn of a New Era

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By Rohail Khan

Until now, in Saudi Arabia, women who graduated from law schools were allowed to work as “legal consultants” at law firms, commercial companies and banks, but could not officially represent clients in court. They were permitted to act as “representatives” but were not considered lawyers. By not holding a law license, women could not open law firms in their names.

Not any more. History will be made early next week when Saudi female lawyers will be issued formal licenses to practice law in Saudi Courts. The Ministry of Justice will officially start granting the licenses on 6th October 2013.

Female lawyers, across the Kingdom, are excited to play their new role once they receive their licenses to practice advocacy. Ms. Bayan Zahran, Saudi female legal consultant, whole-heartedly applauded this pioneering step. She said the presence of Saudi female lawyers in courts would contribute to disseminating legal culture among Saudi families.

Meanwhile, official spokesman of the Ministry of Justice Fahd Al-Bakran said the number of Saudi lawyers is increasing rapidly. Over 200 lawyers have been registered during the current year. The number of licensed practicing lawyers stood at 2,115 last October and this will increase with the addition of female lawyers.

Mr. Al-Bakran appreciated the lawyers’ role in serving justice. He advised that Ministry of Justice is continuing its efforts to complete applications submitted to them, as well as granting the female lawyers licenses for practicing the profession - provided the prescribed conditions are fulfilled by the applicants.

Calls for granting female law graduates practice licenses intensified last summer with the campaign called “I am a female lawyer,” launched in the social media.

Organizers of the campaign objected to spending years studying law at both local and international universities, then not be formally allowed to practice law in their home country. Many of them positively commented that in a conservative society like Saudi, women do not feel comfortable hiring male lawyers especially in personal status lawsuits that might involve private details.

Women empowerment in Saudi Arabia is being take up seriously. The recent new step by the Saudi Government assures the ”dawn of a new era”.

[Rohail Khan, a Canadian-Pakistani with strong parental roots in India as well, is a Senior Banker and CFO based at Jeddah. He is also Chairman, Urdu Academy International (UAI), Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at rohailkhan00@gmail.com]
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