Sunday, September 25, 2011

Women in the Shura

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has announced that women will start having a formal voice in Saudi Arabia's government:
"Saudi King Abdullah announced Sunday that the nation's women will gain the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections to be held in 2015 in a major advancement for the rights of women in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

"In an annual speech before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council, the Saudi monarch said he ordered the step after consulting with the nation's top religious clerics, whose advice carries great weight in the kingdom...

"Abdullah said the changes announced Sunday would also allow women to be appointed to the Shura Council, the advisory body selected by the king that is currently all-male.

"The council, established in 1993, offers opinions on general policies in the kingdom and debates economic and social development plans and agreements signed between the kingdom and other nations."

I wonder how those discussions between the king and the religious establishment went? That this is going through suggests that the king has the upper hand in the ongoing struggle between the two poles of Saudi Arabian society. Although the shura council is powerless and local government in the kingdom isn't all it's cracked up to be, this remains an important step forward, one which might enable women to start raising issues like the driving ban in high circles.

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