Thwarted brides turn to the courts in UAE

Under Sharia, a woman’s guardian – who could be her father, uncle or brother – and two witnesses must approve her marriage. When they refuse, women are increasingly turning to legal action.

ABU DHABI // More women are opting to go to court so they can marry the man of their choice.

Under Sharia, a woman’s guardian – who could be her father, uncle or brother – and two witnesses must approve her marriage. When they refuse, women are increasingly turning to legal action.

Hadeya Hammad, a lawyer, dealt with six such cases in 2013, an increase on previous years. “It is a big number and I am sure there are more. Many girls don’t have the courage because of the family problems that might occur,” she said.

She attributed the rise to family traditions that did not allow girls to choose husbands outside the family circle.

“In certain cases, the girl would want to marry an expat or a local man that her parents refuse,” said Khalid Obaid, another lawyer. “When the refusal takes place, the girl stops her guardian from having the upper hand in her life and designates the judge instead.”

The court examines the background of the man she wished to marry, looking into whether he had any problems, such as being unemployed, having a criminal background, or seeking to marry her for financial reasons, Mr Obaid said.

The parents could also provide evidence to the court to support their view that the man was not a suitable match for their daughter.

“In most cases, the girl is Emirati who wishes to marry an expat, and that is not a recognised norm in the country,” Mr Obaid said.

While legal proceedings were ongoing, the judge becomes the legal guardian of the woman. If the case is successful, the husband becomes the woman’s guardian.

Mr Obaid said the court sometimes tried to find a solution with the Family Guidance Department before a legal case arose.

Ms Hammad said most cases involved older, professional women who had been refused permission by their families.

The families and the daughters would clash and neither party would compromise.

“The family will think of the traditions. They will not allow her to get married to someone from another country. Sometimes he is Emirati but the family have refused him. But the court will look into the man’s case and see if he is suitable,” she said.

A third lawyer, Ali Al Mannaei, said in certain cases where the guardian refused the marriage, the judge would require good reasons.

“The judge will ask why the suitor was rejected and will ask the suitor to come to court,” he said.

“Then after investigating him he will either see him as qualified to be married or not.

“The guardian also has to give reasons as to why he sees the suitor as not qualified, for example he could claim he has a drug problem. In such a case, the judge will ask for reports from the authorities to make sure,” he said.

Mr Al Mannaei said sometimes the father would reject the suitor without finding a specific fault in him.

“Usually, the father will say the suitor is not suitable – period. The father could have his own reasons, for instance, if his daughter is bearing the financial responsibility of the household, he doesn’t want her to get married,” he said.

“Sometimes they are cases of financial status, ancestry and tribalism, and other cases they are because of different nationalities.”

The vast majority of cases involved Emirati women, the lawyers said.

A source at the Judicial Department Abu Dhabi said there was no general trend as to the outcome of these cases.

“Each case is examined by itself and depending on the input the ruling is made,” she said.

The first step for the judge was to examine why the women’s guardian was refusing to accept the proposal from the suitor. They evaluated whether there were valid objections or it was just for personal reasons.

“There was a case of a father who divorced the mother of his children several years ago and never asked about them,” said the source. “Then when the eldest daughter wanted to get married her father refused to even meet the suitor.”

“When he was brought to court he said if the mother withdrew her right to the younger sister’s allowance, he will agree to wed her older sister.”

In such a case the father was stripped of his guardianship.

The source also recalled the case of an orphan whose uncle was her guardian. They had a dispute about her inheritance, so when she wanted to get married he refused.

“However, even if the guardian is stripped of his guardianship, it does not mean the court will immediately wed her to her suitor. The next step is to investigate if he was qualified enough,” said the source.

“So not any woman who wishes to marry a random man can file such a lawsuit and she will be married off immediately.”

Sometimes the suitors were disqualified for marriage, for reasons such as drug addiction or lack of education.

Once the court approved of the suitor, the President of the country becomes the woman’s official guardian, and the judge would act on his behalf and allow her to marry.

Published: March 16, 2015 04:00 AM


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