Saudi women to run, vote in elections

2011-12-29 13:18
Riyadh - Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian's approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official has said.

The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom's restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.

Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the state-run al-Watan newspaper on Wednesday saying that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam's holiest sites, the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male guardian's approval. The country's Shura Council is an all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.

Despite the historic decision by the king to allow women the right to participate in the country's only open elections, male guardian laws in Saudi Arabia remain largely unchanged. Women cannot travel, work, study abroad, marry, get divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian.

The country is guided by an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism.

Hatoun al-Fasi, a women's history professor in Riyadh, said just the announcement that Saudi women can run for office and vote without permission will stir debate.

"It's being brought up out of the blue and could open doors to discussions that we have enough of already," al-Fasi said.

While King Abdullah has pushed for some changes on women's rights, he has been cautious not to push too hard against ultraconservative clerics, who have in the past challenged social reforms. Saudi's ruling family draws its legitimacy from the backing of the kingdom's religious establishment.

The male guardianship laws are particularly stifling for women, Saudi female activist Wajeha al-Hawidar said.

Social reforms

"These laws make the woman like a child in all aspects of her life. She is not dealt with as an adult with a fully developed brain," al-Hawidar said.

The restrictions are practically all-encompassing.

Saudi women cannot study abroad unless a male guardian approves and accompanies them throughout their studies. Government-run hospitals are allowed to perform surgery on women only with approval from a male guardian, except in emergencies. Male guardians in Saudi Arabia are allowed to remove their daughters or sisters from school at any time. In the case that a father, uncle or brother is not available, mothers turn to their sons for approval to work or travel.

"Male guardianship laws are a problem that the Saudi woman has been dealing with for years. It's our number one demand that these laws be revoked," al-Fasi said. "It goes against the social rights that Islam gives women."

Al-Fasi and other Saudi women have been pushing the Saudi government for social reforms and greater rights for women, including to allow women the right to drive and for the dissolution of male guardianship laws. Saudi women have staged protests defying the ban.

Al-Hawidar said Wednesday's announcement means another barrier for women in Saudi Arabia has been lifted. However, she said the government might not see it through, because of expected resistance by those opposing such reforms.

"There are people in the government willing to listen reasonably, but people in society are not," al-Hawidar said. "They will hate you just for being different, and with these people there is no common language."

- AP
Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  human rights
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

Petrol generators from R1399, save up to R350. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Pampers!

Save 30% when you buy 3 or more selected pampers products. While stocks last. Shop now!

This week only - 30% off books!

Get 30% off when you buy 2 or more books. Many titles to choose from. While stocks last. Shop now!

New range of Samsung smartphones!

Samsung Galaxy A3, A5 and Alpha now available at kalahari.com. while stocks last. Shop now!

Buy 3 eBooks & only pay for 2!

The cheapest of the 3 titles will be free. Many more titles to choose from. While stocks last. Shop now!

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You are very people sensitive today and there is a tendency to put too much energy on service and outer obligations. The balance...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.