Saudi Women Lawyers: Equal Footing?

Elizabeth Dickinson, reporting for Abu Dhabi-based The National, goes few years back to tell the story of how Saudi Arabia finally decided to allow female lawyers to apply for licences and to argue cases in court:

In 2007, a group of women working with Saudi Arabia’s National Society for Human Rights published the first legal study arguing that female lawyers should have equal rights to practice law. They presented their findings to the government but they also took their campaign directly to the people.

“We were trying to send our voice through the media,” recalls Hanouf Alhazzaa, a lawyer who worked on the study and is now a doctoral candidate at Harvard University.

A Facebook group named “I’m a Lawyer” was set up. Twitter hashtags followed. Women posted YouTube videos arguing that they were just as qualified as men to be lawyers.

Small cracks began to open in the system as the word spread.

As the story later notes, “the new rules seem to place women on equal footing with men across all segments of legal practice.” On paper, that is. The real test will be to see if these new rules will be fully implemented. We have many nice rules on paper that never get implemented. We also have practices that are banned even though laws say noting about them. The prime example for that, of course, is women driving.