Saudi women can now vote (still can’t drive)

Saudi king gives women right to vote

King Abdullah said his decision came because “we refuse marginalising women’s role in the Saudi society in all fields” and followed “consultations with several scholars”.

He did not mention anything about women’s right to drive in the kingdom where they must hire male chauffeurs, or depend on the goodwill of relatives if they do not have the means.

However, he said “balanced modernisation which agrees with our Islamic values is a necessary demand in an epoch where there is no place for those who are hesitant” in moving forward.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, law & order, religion, social justice

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4 replies

  1. I saw this headline this morning and it put a big smile on my face.
    It’s not everything, particularly given that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy, and the women won’t get the chance to participate for another four years (although it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to vote on Thursday), but it’s still huge.
    In some ways, I wonder if this will be more significant:

    ”We have decided that women will participate in the Shura Council as members starting the next term,” the king said in the unexpected move to enfranchise women.

  2. The article I saw (Al Jazeera) phrased it as ”Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote”. I don’t know what to make of that – issues with translation from Arabic, or is it genuinely a bigger deal that women can vote than that they can be council members.
    And Hatoon al Fassi is my feminist hero for the day. I have to say, it seem surreal to me that she’s not allowed to drive, and until this announcement wasn’t allowed to vote, but she can be a feminist history professor and is the go-to person to be interviewed by Al Jazeera about women’s voting rights.
    (I’ll inset the standard disclaimer that the severe restriction on women in Saudi Arabia seem to have more to do with Saudi culture than with Islam.)

  3. In some ways, I wonder if this will be more significant
    I’d wondered that too. The Shura council is appointed, so it depends on him appointing women to it, but it’s at least plausible he’d be willing to do so if he’s willing to take the other steps.
    Either way, one more country where a positive change is happening; too small and long-overdue, but positive.

  4. The BBC says this about the Shema driving case. I don’t know if that affects the status of her conviction, or if it’s just a waiving of the sentence.

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