Woman opens first female legal office in Saudi

Bayan Zahran launches service in Jeddah

A Saudi woman opened a solicitor’s office in the Gulf Kingdom this week to become the first female in the conservative country to have its own legal office.

Bayan Zahran launched the first female legal office in the country of 30 million people after obtaining permission from the justice ministry following a decision by the cabinet last year to gradually allow women to set up their own lawyer offices.

Newspapers said several lawyers, businessmen and women, as well as other dignitaries attended a function held by Zahran to launch the office in the western Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second largest city of the capital Riyadh.

It was still not clear if Zahran would be allowed to appear in court or whether she would be represented by male lawyers.

Newspapers said last year Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative Muslim nations, has decided to allow local women to practice law in a departure from a long-standing policy of banning female lawyers due to social and religious constraints.

The Saudi cabinet and Shura (appointed parliament) debated the issue in 2013 following the preparation of relevant legislation by the ministry of justice.
The London-based Arabic language daily Sharq Al Awsat quoted ministry sources as saying 300 Saudi women would be granted licences to practise law soon.

The paper said some members of the committee which drafted that law want female lawyers to be confined to personal issues at court, including marriage, divorce, custody and alimony while other members advocate full law practice.

 

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