JEDDAH: There needs to be improved legal rights in Saudi Arabia, and greater awareness of them, not only for individuals and families, but also in the small-business community, according to a legal expert.
Legal consultant Majed Garoub said that while recent family-related judicial decisions have been fair to families in disputes over child custody and support issues, both men and women still require additional rights.
Addressing an audience of men and women at a recent workshop titled Legal and Social Aspects of Family Businesses, Inheritance and Personal Status Issues, he pointed out that recent court decisions have, for example, attempted to prevent fathers from using children to emotionally harm mothers during marital disputes.
â€œThese changes have ended divorced mothersâ€™ struggle in reuniting with their kids,â€ Garoub told Arab News.Â However, despite this and the many additional legal rights Saudi women have recently obtained, Garoub believes all members of Saudi society need more rights and greater assistance to help them understand and pursue them.
â€œThere are many other things that are not limited to only women, but to the whole family â€“ men and women alike,â€ he said. â€œWomen can personally take legal action against offenders.Â We are hopeful a woman will soon be able to meet female employees at courts where she can freely and fully comprehend her rights. These female employees will also help women overcome the social taboo of taking a husband or a relative to court.â€
The increased use of technology in courts is another thing that can contribute significantly to the improvement of proceedings, he added. Regarding the issue of male guardianship over women in Saudi Arabia, Garoub said that from an Islamic point of view, and even legally, men should oversee all family members, but this is a right granted to responsible guardians.
â€œA judge obliges a male guardianÂ to do what he has to do to his family and all of its members,â€ he said. â€œIn case a father fails to be a good caretaker, the judge can abolish his power and act on his behalf for the good of the family.â€
Preserving the social fabric that begins with families is a top priority in Islamic law, Garoub said, and in case of domestic disputes judges decide who is best qualified to take care of a family. Statistics have shown that 50 percent of marriages in Saudi Arabia end in divorce, he added.
â€œSadly, most of these divorce cases occur for trivial reasons that can be settled,â€ he said. â€œThe government has set up many specialized courts to meet the increasing numbers of family disputes and have them resolved.â€
Relationships in family businesses can be equally problematic. Garoub, who is a member of many local and international legal organizations, said that such businesses play a major role in the Saudi economy.
â€œThese families are running major businesses, such as banks, insurance companies and many commercial and industrial service-providing companies,â€ he said.
â€œThese businesses have essential roles to play in the future in regard to sports, culture, recreation, health, transport, renewable energy, and the oil and gas industry sectors.
â€œThey, in fact, have key future roles in its partnership with the government in the two sidesâ€™ run toward achieving the goals of Vision 2030. Therefore, they should be supported and driven toward more development contributions.â€
However, Garoub said that unless these businesses are established within a corporate-governance structure and work toward far-sighted, legal future plans, they risk a financial crisis that could threaten their future.
â€œIndividual administration and an imaginary partnership with family members are the main reasons for business failure,â€ he said. â€œFamily businesses should always be set up on a legal basis that clearly defines membersâ€™ rights and duties. If not, such a business will not continue to exist.â€
He warned that action is needed to address and correct the lack of awareness of legal rights not only among individuals in Saudi Arabia, but across the whole of society, including the business community.
â€œAll institutions of society, such as the chambers of commerce and industry, the judiciary authority and the Public Prosecution, are required to launch legal-awareness campaigns to give society members greater knowledge and understanding about legal rights,â€ he said. â€œThis way, we can create new generations with the legal knowledge that can help them improve their daily lives and businesses.â€