Saudi Marriages: What Are the Rights of the Woman?

Prior to and at the time of marriage in accordance with Islam and Saudi culture and customs, the new bride should receive the following: a dowry (this is usually a sum of money which is supposed to be for her to do as she pleases, whether save or use for other purposes. It should not go to her family but in few cases a percentage of it may towards paying off high wedding costs); jewels (sometimes considered part of the dowry but the groom and family members usually present the bride with an assortment of gold jewelry. Last of all, she should be provided with a furnished house. The house may not be outrightly owned by the man or his family but it is expected that a new bride will have a home of her own, or if in the unusual circumstances living within an extended family, she should have an area which is all hers. In Saudi Arabia it is normal for both sides of a family to participate in furnishing and equipping the home for the bride. The bride may very well choose furnishings so that the home is to her taste. So that is the basic set up on marriage. But the rights of the woman in regards to the expectations of the husband do not stop there.

The husband is expected to continue to take care of his wife. He is to be responsible for upkeep of the home in the sense of paying for all costs associated with running the home such as utility bills. Because the culture in Saudi Arabia leads to many families having a housemaid, the husband is the one typically expected to pay any costs associated with acquiring and employing a housemaid. If the wife needs to be out and about, the husband is expected to provide transport for her. As the emerging theme indicates, the husband is to be the provider ensuring the needs of the wife are met. This should also include feeding and clothing her, paying her mobile bill as well as providing her with a regular “allowance” that she can spend freely. The husband is the one expected to provide funds for groceries although the wife may either do or assist in the actual grocery shopping. If she is ill, he should provide her with medical care and any needed medicines. When a wife marries a Saudi, her lifestyle should either remain the same or improve as it is expected the husband would maintain her in the manner in which she was accustomed and raised.

If the woman works outside of the home (or works from home but receives monies for services) that is considered HER money. She is not obligated or required to spend it on her husband, family or towards maintaining the house. If she chooses to, that is her choice, but there is no stated requirement that she do so.

In today’s modern Saudi Arabia, like elsewhere in the world, it has become more common for wives to pro-actively assist. The rate of inflation and cost of living has made it a necessity in some cases. However if a man takes another wife there should be no expectation on the part of the husband that any of his wives should then have to play a more proactive role in helping maintain and support a household. After all, a man is not supposed to take another wife if he cannot afford to do so. In Saudi culture, expecting a wife to support and take care of herself in regards to any financial needs and also maintain a home is not acceptable in the society unless a husband and wife specifically agree to such terms.


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