Divorce, Saudi style: Man splits with ‘disobedient’ wife during live broadcast

AFP Photo / Karim Sahib
Ever travelled to a nearby city on your own? In Saudi Arabia, this could be grounds for divorce. A Saudi man broke up with his wife because she “disobeyed” him by going on a business trip without his consent.

­The man phoned a radio program dealing with marital problems to complain about his wife to host Sheikh Ghazi al-Shammari, a prominent Islamic scholar.  The unnamed man said his wife “offended his manhood” by traveling from the Saudi port city of Jeddah to the capital Riyadh for a business conference, alone and without his approval.

Al-Shammari concluded that the man had to divorce his wife.

Such a wife is suspicious because she insisted to travel alone to Riyadh and without ample reason,” Al-Shammari later said, as quoted by Al-Arabiya. “I did not rush with the advice because I saw that the issue was dangerous and that we should not remain silent more about it.

The caller decided to heed the advice, and divorced his wife of ten years – during the live broadcast. Al-Shammari said the man should consider remarrying her if she repents for her actions.

For a man the procedure couldn’t be easier. All he has to do is say he is divorcing his wife three times, and just three weeks ago a Saudi man divorced his wife via SMS. He then called two of his relatives to confirm the split. A Saudi court then quickly confirmed the divorce by summoning the two relatives to affirm the husband’s intention.   

Saudi women, however, are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to getting a divorce. They have to endure a tedious court process, which can drag on for months. They can opt to hasten the process by filing a Kuhla lawsuit instead, but that involves paying back dowries. The proceedings are further complicated by the fact that the husband is often unwilling to attend hearings. Judges are usually reluctant to issue rulings if the husband doesn’t pay a visit to the court, though they do have a right to issue a police order to force the husband to attend.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of divorce, with over 18,765 divorce cases recorded in 2010. This means one divorce every half an hour, local expert Awad al-Harbi estimates.