Saudi women lawyers set to win court rights

By Jonathan Ames

08 November 2012 at 12:39 BST

Women lawyers in Saudi Arabia are on the verge of being awarded the right to practise in the country's courts, according to a leading Gulf lawyer.

Saudi legal profession soon to be reformed

A report in Australian publication Lawyers Weekly says that Hesham Al Homoud -- the head of the corporate department in the Saudi office of leading local United Arab Emirates-based law firm Al Tamimi & Co -- predicts the Saudi position will shortly be reformed.

Mounting pressure

Mr Al Homoud maintains the Saudi justice ministry will soon bow to mounting pressure from domestic women lawyers. The move also follows a recent high profile visit to Saudi Arabia by British Prime Minister David Cameron, which once again shone a light alleged cultural inequalities in the Gulf’s largest state.
It is understood that there is no formal legislation prohibiting women lawyers from appearing on behalf of clients in Saudi courts – however, there has been a long-standing convention that they do not. The Dubai-based daily newspaper, Gulf News, reported last week on expectations that the Saudi government would officially encourage the dropping of that convention.

Full of hope

The newspaper reported on a statement given to the Arabic language daily Al Yawm, in which a woman lawyer, Hanan Ahmad Al Sahrfi, said: ‘We are looking forward to putting the decision into practice. There are around 300 women lawyers in the eastern province who are ready to start and to open offices as lawyers. I personally have submitted my papers to the justice ministry for an official licence and I am full of hope.’
However, Mr Al Homoud sounded a note of caution, telling Lawyers Weekly that individual judges and clients may still be reluctant to accept women lawyers. ‘Further challenges may arise in the case of male clients and governmental organisations where, for example, a judgment is being enforced and the lawyer is obliged to deal with male officials,’ he told the newspaper.


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