Women in Saudi Arabia have been given the right to vote and stand as political candidates in the upcoming elections - a first in the country’s history.
Last week, a small number of women registered to vote in Mecca and Madina – a first in the country’s history.
“The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” one woman who registered to vote told Saudi Gazette. “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.”
While critics argue that the laws do not go far enough in advancing women’s’ rights, it is at least, a step in the right direction.
According to a UN report released last year, Saudi Arabia ranked 130 our of 146 countries for global gender equality. Sadly, Saudi women are still unable to open a bank account, get a passport on their own, or even travel without a male companion (which, at the moment, might be best due to the lack of respect directed towards females in the country). That means that although women are now legally allowed to vote, standing restrictions may still impinge their ability to cast a ballot.
However, human rights activists persist in their efforts. Adam Coogle, a Middle-East Researcher for Human Rights Watch, stated that Saudi authorities must scrap the guardianship system and allow Saudi women to have “full control over all of the major decisions that affect their lives.”
“Only then will Saudi Arabia’s women be able to contribute to society on an equal footing with men.” he added.
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