Bahrain: Abandoned women seek legal redress

Khaleej Times
Women abandoned by their husbands in Bahrain broke their silence and staged two sit-ins in July to highlight the legal challenges they faced in getting their marriage annulled.
Their cases have now been taken up by the Women’s Union when some of these women approached it last week, seeking its help in getting their case heard at courts.
“We received some of the women who took part in two protests at the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs and Ministry of Social Development and promised them to look into their matter at the earliest,” President of the Women’s Union, Mariam Al Ruwai told Khaleej Times yesterday. She said the union would also raise the demand of implementing a family law to govern such cases at Shariah courts.

Those women have been dumped by their husbands long ago who have also stopped offering them any financial assistance. However, these women failed to get divorce because of legal complications. They have been protesting for not being able to get any financial support from the government because all assistance still go to their husbands because they are officially still married.

One of these women is Ruqaya who did not know when she got married in 1996 and had no idea of the legal hassles she had to face for choosing a man she considered right at the time of marriage.

“Despite some problems with my in-laws and financial troubles, as I was the sole breadwinner, we led a decent life in the early years and I also bore three daughters from him,” Ruqaya told Khaleej Times while highlighting that divorce was not the first option as she tried different options to bring him back when he dumped her four years ago for another woman.

“I wanted him back and asked many relatives to interfere but when all my efforts went in vain I filed for divorce,” she said. Ruqaya soon realised the ground realities when people in her own village started treating her as social outcast for seeking divorce and not waiting for her husband to come back. Then her problems started to worsen because courts were not willing to give her divorce. Like other abandoned women, Ruqaya also does not get housing and inflation allowance because she is officially married. She said protests would continue to pressure the authorities concerned to look into their plight and give them justice as some of the women have been deserted years ago.

Activist Afaf Al Jamri supported those women and called upon them to continue their protest for their rights. She told Khaleej Times that unnecessary delays of their legal cases against their husbands who abandoned them and their children without reasons should be tackled, and a mechanism should be found to implement the family law. She also demanded a law to protect wives from being victimised by their husbands. Courts in Bahrain did not grant women divorce if they were not physically abused by their husbands, so couples living separately gave courts no reason to order divorce, she said.

Suad Hamada

28 July 2008

Khaleej Times