RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The daughter of a Saudi business man has become the first female lawyer in the country and opened her own law firm. King Abdullah has issued a royal decree opening up the profession to women. There are three other royal decrees in process to allow more women to become lawyers.
This order comes 75 years after the first woman lawyer was appointed in the Arab world.
King Abdullah has expanded rights for women during his rule. Women are now allowed to stay in hotels without an escort. In the last year, 30 women were nominated to parliament for the first time and girls are now allowed to own and ride bikes.
Some may not see this as a major gain for women’s rights, but any gain is progress for a country rated as having the third worst record for women’s rights in the Arab world.
The introduction of the first female lawyers gives hope to women plaintiffs. Many women would feel more comfortable seeking counsel from someone who can better understand and assist with their situation. Many women say male lawyers are unable to fully understand their situations and problems.
Other movements to expand women’s rights within the country are also happening. Education reform, driving protests, and labor policy reform are also major issues women are passionate about in the region.
Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran thanked King Abdullah for issuing the royal decree that will allow her to practice law at her own firm. Before the decree, Zahran had employed male lawyers. Even though the women had completed a university education and three years of specialized training, they were not considered lawyers – instead, they were called ‘legal consultants.’
Before the royal decree, women could get the necessary education, but were not allowed to practice law or call themselves lawyers. Congratulations to the first female lawyer in Saudi Arabia!
– Colleen Eckvahl