While Saudi Arabia makes steady progress toward women empowerment with many females occupying top government and private sector posts, there are others who are still unaware of their rights. (AN files)
By JEDDAH: DIANA AL-JASSEM, ARAB NEWS STAFF
Published: Mar 24, 2012 23:51 Updated: Mar 24, 2012 23:51
Saudi women fail in misyar marriages due to low awareness of their rights and duties.
A misyar marriage is a marriage created to fulfill the needs of both the man and woman, with the two parties giving up several rights, such as housing, equal division of nights between wives in case of polygamy, maintenance money and the husband’s right of home keeping. Despite the amount of information on misyar marriage rights and duties online, most women in Saudi Arabia are still confused about the issue.
Statistics issued by the Center for Women’s Studies in Saudi Arabia confirm that 18 percent of Saudi women know their rights, while 32 percent assert they absolutely do not know what their rights are.
The majority knows little, while 48 percent of the women know some rights. The study also indicates that 28 percent of Saudi women believe Saudi law doesn’t help them obtain their rights, while 40 percent of Saudi women blame men for not allowing them to get their rights.
Women who get married through misyar sometimes complain that their husbands ignore them for months without even calling them. Women raise the question whether they are protected or not. They confirm that despite getting married officially through contract and witnesses, men still treat them like adulteresses.
Umm Mashari, a Saudi widow aged 46, married a young Saudi man through misyar marriage. Despite the fact that a misyar marriage should be made public, her husband persuaded her not to tell anyone about it, except her sons.
“I got married to a Saudi man who is already married. He asked me not to announce the marriage or even say his name in front of my neighbors, and I obeyed him. Since we got married two months ago, he visited me once. He spent a few hours with me and left,” she said.
Umm Mashari added, “I was studying at a literacy school, but he banned me from going to school. He stopped me from going out unless he allows me. He also prevents me from wearing makeup or attending any weddings. I have been obeying him since we got married, but when I call him to ask his permission he does not answer. He once answered the phone, but he insulted me and warned me against calling him again.”
According to Umm Mashari, she doesn’t know anything about her husband, and she cannot reach him.
“I don’t know what to do and how long I should wait for him. I don’t know whether he is going to return to me or he decided to leave forever. I even don’t know whether I have to continue obeying his directions or not,” she said.
Umm Mashari confirmed that when the sheikh made her marriage contract, he didn’t tell her anything about her rights. He just reminded her that she shouldn’t ask for a house or allowance.
S. Abdullah, another Saudi woman who got married through misyar, complained that her husband banned her from reading the contract, and she doesn’t even know his full name.
“I got married to a Saudi man I knew from Facebook. I knew his first and second name, but I don’t know his family name or his work address,” she said.
“I am a divorced teacher living in Jeddah without my family, who lives in a village far from here,” she added. “I decided to get married to avoid illegal advances, but now I feel like a whore.”
Abdullah said that despite their marriage, her husband treats her like a whore. “He came once every two or three months. When he came he refused to enter my apartment. Instead, he took me to a furnished apartment or hotel, and dropped me back later.”
According to Abdullah, the last time he visited her was four months ago. “In his most recent visit, he gave me SR5,000. When I asked him why, he said I might need the money. Then he warned me against calling him. Now I realize that he won’t return to me. The money he paid me was the price for the five nights he spent with me,” she said.
Abdullah added, “Misyar marriage requirements are well known, as they are published on the Internet and highlighted in the marriage contract, but most Saudi men don’t follow the contract and trick the women. Although misyar marriages should be announced, most women hide it, because society criticizes them and men prevent them from announcing it. In addition, most women don’t know how to react in case her husband ignores her.”
Saudi lawyer Majed Qaroub confirmed that misyar marriage requirements were well known and announced before marriage, but women do not understand that.
“There is no doubt that the Saudis, both men and women, are not aware of how to get their rights. Unfortunately, this weakness in the culture of Saudi people is increasing. In addition, civil society organizations don’t help the individual to get his or her rights,” he said. “Most Saudi women and men have become aware of the dangers of misyar marriages because of the big debate in the media and society, but they don’t read the terms and conditions in the contract. Even when they know the law, they don’t care to apply them.”