Saudi Arabia is taking major steps to improve women's rights in the kingdom.
Just in the past ten days, four major decisions were approved by the kingdom's Justice Ministry that will have a significantly positive impact on Saudi women, according to Al Arabiya.
While there definitely still is a long way to go before women have equal rights, these recent decisions demonstrate that Riyadh is serious about narrowing the gender gap.
1. Child brides
While child marriage has not been outlawed, the kingdom's legislative authorities approved 10 proceedings controlling the marriage of minors. More regulations and guidelines mean that young girls will be better protected from forced marriages.
Limits have been put in place on allowing girls under the age of 17 to be married. Now, the girl, her mother or her legal guardian must officially submit the marriage application.
While girls under 17 will still be permitted to marry, such marriages will not be as easy as they were before.
2. Divorce and alimony
Divorced Saudi women have often been left in dire financial need due to husbands neglecting to pay the proper alimony. Now, the Justice Ministry has organized a fund that will ensure women are taken care of, whether or not their husbands pay on time.
As soon as a woman is divorced, she can start receiving money from the alimony fund, even before an official verdict is reached on the amount her husband should pay. If the husband does not pay or pays late, a woman will still receive her payments regularly via the fund. Divorced men will be required to pay directly to the fund, whether on time or late.
This decision ensures that divorced women will be financially taken care of, even when their husbands neglect their duty to pay.
3. Custody of children
Women will no longer have to sue to maintain custody of their children after divorce. As long as there are no disputes between the parents, the women can keep the children without having to file a lawsuit in personal status courts.
4. Female lawyers
The Justice Ministry also approved a three-year law diploma, which will protect female lawyers from exploitation.
Although the law diploma is for women and men, the move is seen as one that will safeguard female lawyers, who are often held back from practicing law by employers.
After law school, Saudis must intern before they are allowed to practice law. Women are often assigned irrelevant or simple tasks instead of learning the necessary skills through the internship.
Instituting the diploma means this problem will be curbed, as lawyers and law firms will be required to properly train interns to complete the program within three years.
Previous steps to improve women's rights
Saudi Arabia is often criticized internationally for its treatment of women. However, in the past few years, significant progress has been made.
The kingdom has amended a number of laws in an effort to empower women. These include opening municipal elections to female candidates and making women's verbal consent to marriage mandatory. The Saudi Council also announced an amendment to laws governing travel documents, giving women a right to obtain a passport without male permission.
The male guardianship system has also been seen as a hindrance to women's progress, but a royal decree from King Salman in May suggests the patriarchal systems' days are numbered. Saudi women have already made significant gains in recent years.
Increasing women's participation in business and education is also a key part of the Vision 2030 plan championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Numerous women have been appointed to high financial and business positions within the kingdom just this year.
In February, three Saudi women took over top financial posts in Saudi Arabia. Among them, Sarah Al Suhaimi was appointed as head of the Saudi stock exchange, making international headlines as the first woman to ever chair Tadawul.