Culture 17 January 2019
Just a week into the New Year, Saudi Arabia made a big change in their realm of politics. As of January 6, the government made it mandatory for Saudi women to be notified about their divorce.
While this may seem like an uncommon way to end a marriage, Saudi women often don't know their marital status. The new law is no longer making it possible for their husbands to sneakily file for divorce, a common issue in this Middle Eastern country. As a step in the right direction for Saudi women, the courts will send an SMS text message when they are being divorced. Now, they will not have the disadvantage of not knowing.
How does this new policy affect women?
The Saudi Ministry of Justice, which oversees the administration of the country’s court system, issued a statement online regarding the new policy. “Saudi courts have started [sending] such notifications…a step aimed at protecting the rights of female clients, and enhancing the digital transformation with more services,” the Saudi Ministry of Justice states. “The courts notify women of probate certificates related to marital status – upon approval – through their Absher-registered mobile numbers.” In addition to the new law, women have access to an online portal on the Ministry of Justice website, where they can find additional information about their marital status.
Not only does this law require that women are informed, but also protects their rights, especially when it comes to negotiating alimony or custody. Saudi courts text information including a divorce certificate number and the name of the court where the documents can be retrieved, according to CNN. In spite of the recent changes, husbands are still able to divorce their wives without letting them know.
Following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s lifted ban on women driving last year this initiative goes along with his Vision for 2030 economic and social reforms. Within that plan, women have gained more rights in recent years, but are still limited by what they can do due to a male guardianship system, Bloomberg reports. For those who don't know, Saudi women are restricted from doing certain things without permission from a male, such as a husband, father or brother. As a result, Saudi women are still taking to social media to protest for more freedom.
“At least women will know whether they are divorced or not,” Suad Abu-Dayyeh said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It is a tiny step, but it is a step in the right direction.”
The guardianship is one of many things women are protesting. Suad Abu-Dayyeh from global rights group, Equality Now, shares insight on the matter in an interview with Reuters. “The male guardianship system is a core issue and it must be dismantled,” Abu-Dayyeh said to a Reuters reporter. “This system strangles Saudi women.” Social issues surrounding the male-dominated kingdom also involve dress codes -- not being able to appear in public without wearing a full-length black abaya or mixing freely with the opposite sex despite fewer restrictions on gender-mixing are still prevalent.
In light of the new law, the Twitter community was life with comments. Both men and women have shared their thoughts on the matter. A tweet sent out by a copy of a ministry circular was shared by, Step Feed regarding the 2030 Vision for economic and social reforms. Some found the law helpful, others deemed it ridiculous and the remainder criticized its impact on women in this Middle Eastern country.
The new law faced criticism from a few.
Translation: "A move that should’ve been made tens of years ago. Progress is incredibly slow here, especially when it comes to women’s rights.”
A few jokes were made in response to the progress of women’s rights.
Translation: "Salem sister, we wanted to inform you that you’ve been divorced. Your husband came here a while ago and divorced you. We thought we should let you know, we’ve advanced a little. But your presence isn’t important, thank you."
“This system strangles Saudi women.”
Others helped forward important information and positive reinforcement.
Translation: "An excellent step the most important thing is to be registered in Absher until the text message comes."
Photo Courtesy of BBC News.
This new law is a small development and achievement for women within Saudi Arabia. “At least women will know whether they are divorced or not,” Suad Abu-Dayyeh said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It is a tiny step, but it is a step in the right direction.
In the past couple of years, there have been a few advancements and progresses regarding women’s rights. The New Year has just begun -- meaning there may be more policy implementations in the months ahead, following the crown prince’s strategic planning for new reforms.
We're here. We're queer. Now that it's pride month, it feels like every store and corporation is flooding us with their best rainbow merchandise, capitalizing on a $917 billion dollar consumer market.
The rainbow flags are out. The mannequins are sporting pride tees. And corporate newsletters are full of interviews showcasing all their queer employees ("Look, we have a gay person here! We GET you!").
To me, this is blatant evidence that the future is queer.
These corporations follow the money, and with 20% of millennials and 31% of Gen Z openly identifying as queer, these businesses have to capitalize on the growing purchasing power of LGBTQIA+ consumers. With a recorded market size of $917 billion dollars in 2016, and a growing interest in socially conscious brands among young consumers, this is clearly a market opportunity that corporations cannot afford to ignore.
However, I'm always surprised by how little attention investors and the entrepreneurial community devotes to this undeniable trend, despite being constantly inundated with overwhelming statistics proving the importance of diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Only 2.2% of venture capital funding went to women in 2018, less than .1% of funding has been allocated to black women since 2009, and only about 1% of venture-backed companies have a black founder or Latinx founder. These statistics are over-quoted but underacted upon.
This gender and diversity inequality significantly hinders economic growth, since 85% of all consumer purchases are controlled by women, and startups with higher ethnic diversity tend to produce financial returns above their industry norm.
The data is clearly leading to one direction: investing in women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, veterans, immigrants, and other minority groups in entrepreneurship leads to higher revenue and better business results.
As data-driven and forward-thinking as this industry claims to be, we haven't caught up to the queer founders, particularly queer women, who are rethinking the future. These founders understand and speak to a generation of increasing numbers of LGBTQIA+ people whose market share will only continue to grow exponentially. VCs and investors are already behind the curve.
SoGal Foundation, a non-profit on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship, is helping bridge this divide between queer women founders and investors with the launch of applications for the second annual Global Pitch Competition for diverse entrepreneurs. Hosted in 25+ cities across five continents, and culminating in a final global pitch competition and 3-day immersive educational bootcamp in Silicon Valley, this is the first and only globally-focused pitch opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs.
Startups that are pre-Series A (raised less than $3M) with at least one woman or diverse founder, apply here to pitch! The top teams selected from each regional round will join SoGal's final global pitch competition and bootcamp in Silicon Valley for guaranteed face time with dozens of top Silicon Valley investors, curated educational programming, unparalleled 1:1 mentorship, press exposure, and a chance to win investment capital.
Women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ founders: what's the best way to kick off pride? Apply to pitch!
Regional pitch rounds will be held August-November 2019; final pitch competition in Silicon Valley in February 2020. Details and additional cities to be announced.
SoGal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the largest global platform for diverse founders and funders in 40+ chapters across 5 continents; our mission is to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship. SoGal Foundation's global startup competition represents the first and largest opportunity for women and diverse entrepreneurs and investors to connect worldwide. Join the SoGal community & follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.