In a major milestone for championing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, the first law firm for women has opened. Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran took this historic step and is also the first woman lawyer issued the right to practice law in Saudi Arabia. While she says she will be happy to hear cases from both genders, she is excited about the possibility of helping women. Until now, women have not been able to find a female lawyer whom they can trust with their problems. She explained that male lawyers often couldn’t understand the problems of female plaintiffs, making it difficult for them to try their cases in court.
At the opening of her law firm, Al-Zahran said:
I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system. This law firm will make a difference in the history of court cases and female disputes in the Kingdom. I am very hopeful and thank everyone who supported me in taking this historical step…This is a very positive step toward the Saudi court and justices as right now, we are four female lawyers who got the license, but I am hopeful that in future, the number will increase.
According to Arab News, Al-Zahran’s father, Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Zahran, is very proud of her. He agrees this is a huge step forward for women’s rights and will help many women who couldn’t get help before.
Saudi Arabia has seen a surge in women’s rights campaigns recently. In 2011, women in Riyadh wore pink and created the largest human breast cancer ribbon to date in order to raise awareness for the disease. Many women in Saudi Arabia weren’t getting early screening for breast cancer, and so as many as 70 percent of women were diagnosed at an advanced stage. Also, in May 2013, the kingdom launched a provocative and powerful advertisement campaign against domestic violence. The ad showed a woman in a black veil with one black eye. The English version of the ad read, “Some things can’t be covered.” In late August 2013, the kingdom took this one step further and outlawed domestic violence completely. Under this law, offenders would face prison time of up to a year and fines of up to $13,300.
While Saudi Arabia has often been globally chastised for its lack of attention to women’s rights, these are huge steps forward in a very short amount of time. The world hopes to see more of these milestones in the very near future. However, the kingdom does have a ways to go. Al-Zahran, for example, still has quite a few rules she must follow in court, just because she is a woman.
Mazen Batterjee, vice president of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, attended her opening ceremony. While he congratulated her, “he said female lawyers should follow the restrictions of the court for hijab since Islam while giving rights to women, also had ethics in place for women while presenting themselves before a judge,” according to Arab News.
Photo Credit: Zamanalsamt