Omani women can now appeal directly to Sultan Qaboos if their family do not allow them to marry the man of their own choice, according to a royal decree reported in The National. The paper explains:
Many parents, according to judicial experts, use the court of law to prevent their daughters from marrying, with reasons ranging from demands for high dowries to getting married to a man within the family clan.
Lutfi al Rashdi, a lawyer at Salmi Legal Consultancy in Muscat, said: "What the royal decree basically means is that if the court rules in favour of the parents, then the girl can appeal straight to the sultan and the judgment can be overruled, depending on the circumstances."
It's a step forward, of sorts. But surely the real solution is to devise a system that works fairly without a need for intervention from the unmarried Sultan.
One factor, The National says, is that with larger numbers of young women going out to work, families have become dependent on their incomes – which they lose when they marry.
That, in turn, is pushing up the bride price which can be as high as 10,000 Omani rials ($25,000), plus several thousand rials-worth of jewellery:
“If the boy cannot pay that, then the woman is not allowed to marry him. It all boils down to pure greed. In other words, daughters are sold off to the highest bidder,” said Fatma Fallahy, 74, a marriage counsellor in Muscat.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 6 May 2010.