Women Finally Appointed to Saudi Arabian Parliament

Target: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Goal: Applaud decision to appoint women to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council and urge further steps toward gender equality

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia recently issued a decree requiring that at least 20 percent of the 150 seats in the Shura Council be appointed to women. Consequently, 30 women have now earned positions in the country’s top advisory council for a term of four years.

The Shura Council is similar to a parliament, but without formal powers. It does not have power to change or veto legislations, but it can review it, and make recommendations to the government regarding amendments and additions.

The king announced that these female council members will have “full membership rights” while obeying governing Sharia laws and dressing accordingly by veiling themselves. However, they will be required to be seated in a separate area of the chamber, divided by screens, and will need to use an internal communication system to participate in any debate. The Council building even has to undergo some alterations to provide a separate entrance for these women.

The list of restrictions made on the daily lives of women in Saudi Arabia is endless. To mention a few, women are not allowed to enter public offices or banks through the same main entrances as their male counterparts; their testimonies in court counts for less than those given by men; and there are even plans for building a new city for female workers. Women are also not allowed to drive cars – an issue which has sparked several women’s movements in Saudi Arabia to protest and defy the law, resulting in many arrests and disappearances of female drivers.

Some are skeptical that appointing women seats in the council will create any real improvements for Saudi women, illuminating the absurdity that the women on the council will not be able to drive themselves to work. Others who recognize these issues still consider this to be a big step in the right direction. Even though it will not substantially change the everyday life of Saudi women, it might change the mind-sets of the country’s conservatives by showing them that women can perform the same jobs as men.

Praise is given when praise is due, and the king has since his crowning in 2005 appointed Saudi Arabia’s first female Deputy Minister, declared that women may both vote and run for office in local election starting 2015, and now this. Sign this petition, and congratulate the king for taking small – but important – steps towards gender equality.

PETITION LETTER

Dear King Abdullah,

I want to congratulate you for staying true to your promise and appointing 30 women to serve on your Shura Council. Requiring women to be part of decision-making and legislation proposals is a big step towards ensuring women’s rights and a historic event for Saudi Arabia.

Your recent strides towards human rights and gender equality will not be forgotten. However, there is still much work to be done. These female council members should, for instance, be able to drive themselves to work and to visit other countries without having to seek permission from a man.

Do not hold these women back from living up to their full potential as public servants to their community. Instead, allow and encourage them to contribute Saudi Arabia in the best possible way. Honor your women, and continue to take steps towards ensuring their human rights.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ammar Abd Rabbo via Flickr

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  • Jeanie Streit
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