Manama: Four Saudi lawyers have made history by becoming the first women to practise law in the kingdom’s courts.
Bayan Zahran, Jihan Qurban, Sarra Al Omari and Ameera Quqani were on Sunday given the licences that allow them to change their status from legal consultants to attorneys.
The change means that the ban imposed on female law graduates to practise law in the courtroom and own and operate law firms will be lifted. It follows years of relentless requests and moves by several women to allow them to use their law degrees.
The impact of the ministry’s decision will be enormous on the local court system where women embroiled in divorce and custody cases have often complained of bias in favour of husbands. They will now see the presence of practising women lawyers as a new opportunity for greater justice.
“When I took the plane to the justice ministry in the capital Riyadh, I had high hopes and great dreams,” Jeddah-based Ameera said. “It was a dream come true and I was handed the much-anticipated certificate and licence by ministry officials in a matter of fleeting minutes,” she said, quoted by local daily Al Watan on Monday.
Ameera added that she was a 2008 law graduate from the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah and that she had been working in a law firm the Red Sea city where she handled company and labour cases.
“Now with the licence, I am an attorney and not a legal consultant and this means among several things that I can take up several cases and practise in a court of law,” she said.
Her immediate plan is to continue working in the law firm that accepted her five years ago.
However, she plans to set up her own firm at a later stage, she said.
Bayan, one of the four women lawyers who made history, used her Twitter account to share the breakthrough news.
“I have received the licence to practise law as a lawyer. I pray to God that it will help me serve my religion and my nation,” she posted next to a picture of the licence, valid for five years.
The justice ministry first announced that it would provide the licence to female law graduates in October last year.
The initial plan was to confine the licence to family status cases, but the final decision did not impose any limits and women can practise in all fields of law.
Conditions to obtain the licence are the same for men and women and include a university degree in law and three years of training, justice ministry sources told the daily.
Women have been steadily gaining new rights in Saudi Arabia, particularly after King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud assumed power in August 2005. In January 30 women were appointed to the Shura (Consultative) Council.