It has just been announced that Dr. Arwa Al Jalal has been appointed a judge of the Saudi Arabian Competition Court which deals with monopolies and other anti-competitive practices. This is an amazing development where the first female lawyers received their licenses only seven years ago.
Dr. Al Jalal is an assistant professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, where she specializes in commercial and insurance law. The Committee for the Determination of Violations of the Competition Regulation is a powerful judicial body that can stop mergers and impose heavy penalties on businesses that hinder free competition.
The first female Saudi Arabian lawyer who received a license from the Ministry of Justice is also called Arwa, namely Arwa Al-Hujaili from Jeddah. She had to fight hard to be allowed to register as a trainee lawyer, but finally, in 2013 she was a fully qualified Saudi Arabian lawyer. At first, the judges were unused to dealing with women lawyers, but that has long passed. Nowadays it is perfectly normal to see women representing their clients in courts.
The next major milestone came in 2016 when Shaimaa Al-Jibran was appointed as an arbitrator in a commercial dispute in the Eastern Province. The appointment was challenged by the opposing party, who asserted that a woman cannot qualify as an arbitrator in Saudi Arabia. The matter was heard by the Administrative Appeal Court, who overruled the objection and confirmed Al-Jibran’s appointment.
Dr. Al-Jalal’s appointment to the Competition Court is another step in the evolution. It is not the same as a judicial appointment to the courts which are administered by the Ministry of Justice and the Administrative Court, which require six years’ intensive training in Islamic Law, but it is still a momentous step in an environment where women have to fight every inch of the way for their rights.
It must be remembered that having another person to judge you requires enormous respect for their learning and authority. Having female judges breaks down one of the most solid barriers because powerful businessmen must now accept Dr. Al Jalal’s rulings.