Imagine being divorced from your spouse without even knowing it. That used to be the reality for women in Saudi Arabia, until now. CNN reports that on Sunday, the Saudi government started to send women text messages when their husbands divorce them. The move is part of a sweeping program of social reforms called Vision 2030, instituted by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
According to CNN, the text will show the divorce certificate number and will indicate where women can go to receive the official documents. There’s also a new website where women can query their marital status and get relevant details about probate certificates. As Bloomberg notes, the divorce notifications will help women to secure their right to receive alimony.
“The new measure ensures women get their rights when they’re divorced,” said Saudi attorney Nisreen al-Ghamdi. “It also ensures that any powers of attorney issued before the divorce are not misused.”
In 2018, the crown prince’s regime also lifted the ban against female drivers that had been in place for decades. Women had previously been arrested for driving themselves and were forced to either use public transportation or hire male drivers to get around, CNN reports. The removal of the ban has encouraged ride-sharing companies like Uber to hire female drivers allowing them to have a source of income.
While these development have been hailed as positive steps to improve the status of women in Saudi Arabia, male guardianship laws are still in place. This means that women still have to get permission from a husband or male relative to make key decisions in their lives. As Human Rights Watch notes, Saudi women need the permission of men “to marry, travel or exit prison.” In some cases, they need their male guardian to sign off on their medical care, home rentals, and legal claims, among other things. According to Human Rights Watch, male guardians sometimes use their power to exploit the women in their lives.
The positive changes that have been made under Prince bin Salman’s rule have also been overshadowed by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. As Al Jazeera reports, the CIA has reportedly found that there’s a possibility that bin Salman ordered the brutal killing of one of Saudi Arabia’s most vocal critics. President Donald Trump has been reluctant to pin the blame for the murder on the Saudis, but the U.S. Senate did that for him when they rebuked bin Salman via a resolution passed in December, News.com reports.