Need For Clear-Cut Laws To Protect Rights Of Deserted Women
Khaleej Times Online, Jeddah
4 January 2007
Wives in Saudi Arabia, either married to Saudis or foreigners, are having to face a new phenomena in their married lives — being deserted by their husbands all of a sudden and for no apparently valid reason.
“Some Saudi husbands surprise their wives with unpredictable behaviour,” said Azza Al Mihdar, a sociologist at King Abdulaziz University.
“Many women have sacrificed their lives for their husbands during their marriage, but the worst thing is when they find out they have ended up with nothing,” Al Mihdar said. “Losing their husbands and their homes puts them under mental and social pressure as their families consider them a trouble,” she added.
According to Al Mihdar, Saudi society is in serious need for clear-cut laws that can protect the rights of deserted women. She said there have been stories about men abandoning their wives without facing any charges.
Saudi Arabia has recently started establishing family courts that handle domestic violence, abandoned housewives’ rights and other social cases, with the help of the National Human Rights Association (NHRA). The change took place after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz issued a decree in May 2006.
“The social solution is that both families and relatives should put pressure on the husband either to live with his family normally or divorce his wife,” Al Mihdar said.
Shaikh Taha Hassan, an Islamic scholar, said Islam does not approve of such treatment because it’s against the teachings of the Holy Quran, which states wives should either be respected or released.
According to Mohammed Al Ghamdi, head of public relations department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the ministry receives a large number of cases of abandoned housewives every year.
“We offer women who are living under these difficult circumstances temporary financial assistance until we have helped them solve their problem. If they prove they have no family to help them, we provide them with shelter as well,” Al Ghamdi said.
“Before the ministry takes any steps to help these cases, we send out sociologists to make sure that what they are saying is true and that they really don’t have any financial support,” he added.
Ayesha Koja, 55, was a happy housewife. But one morning, about six years ago, her husband of 30 years deserted her and walked out, leaving her with her four children. “There weren’t any serious fights between us. Just like any ordinary couple, we would fight and then things would go back to normal. But he just left home,” said Koja, who was forced to go back to her mother’s house.
Every woman deserted by her husband, however, is not so lucky to fall back on her family members to seek support. Many have to struggle through life. Some face financial difficulties and/or are ostracised by their families. They feel as if they are living in limbo because they don’t seem married, yet they are not divorced, making it difficult for them to live independently. Some husbands punish their wives this way when they realise their marriage is not working out.
Koja is in a better situation than many other women because her son is helping her financially after her husband disregarded his financial commitments towards the family.
On the other hand, Ayesha Al Ghamdi, 38, who has three daughters and a son, has had financial difficulties even before she was abandoned by her non-Saudi husband. “I was married to a foreigner for 15 years and during that time he forced me to ask for money from my friends and relatives since he had no job,” said Al Ghamdi, who lives in Jeddah.