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Saudi Arabia: 20 women elected in first women inclusive vote

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source: nbcnews
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Riyadh: Voters in Saudi Arabia elected 20 women for local government seats, according to election results after the momentous day when women were allowed to vote as well as contest in the polls for the first time in the history of the country.

Though the elected 20 form just one per cent of the estimated 2,100 contested seats in the municipal council, it is a huge step forward for a country where women still need permission from male guardians to work, travel, or enroll in school. Women are not even allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

The only two former elections in 2005 and 2011 featured only male candidates campaigning for a mass of male voters. The municipal council, which is the only government body in Saudi where citizens elect the representatives, saw roughly 7000 prospective candidates for its positions, including 979 women.

There are no quotas in place for women candidates. However, 1,050 seats are appointed only on the king’s approval, which gives him the power to make sure that more women are represented.

The elected women come from various parts of the country, including the largest city, as well as a small village near Mecca.

Riyadh, Saudi’s conservative capital, saw four elected women – the highest from any region – while the Shiite concentrated Eastern Province had two elected women, said Hamad Al-Omar, who heads the media council of the General Election Commission.

Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, the most cosmopolitan Jeddah, along with the conservative city of Qassim, both saw two women elected.

Madrakah, a village situated about 150 kilometres north of Islam’s holiest site, also saw a woman elected, informed Mecca mayor Osama al-Bar to the AP.

Yet another woman won in Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad’s first mosque was built.

In the northernmost areas of the kingdom, two women were elected in Tabuk, and one each from Jawf and Hail. Jizan, on the southernmost border had one woman representative, neighbouring region Asir had another, and the eastern region of al-Ahsa had two.

Many of the women candidates ran on platforms promising overall greener cities with better garbage collection, improved roads, increased number of nurseries for working mothers which offer longer daycare hours, and the establishment community centers for the youth with sports and cultural activities.

Also read: Saudi Arabia cracks women political barrier, allows them to vote

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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women drivers; 7 more bans yet to be addressed for Saudi women

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saudi women
A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia, Oct. 22, 2013. VOA

Oct 2, 2017: The Sharia-ruled monarchy of the Middle-East, Saudi Arabia decided to lift the ban on women drivers on September 26, much to the elation of Women’s Rights Activists throughout the world. King Salman issued a royal decree on Tuesday granting Saudi women the right to drive thereby ending the kingdom’s notorious reputation of being the only country that prohibits women from driving. The law will come into effect on June 24, 2018.

While the pronouncement signifies a “positive step” towards women-empowerment, the conclusion of whether such laws can be turned into practice in a patriarchal society like Saudi Arabia can be drawn only with the unfolding of time.

Apart from relaxing the ban on women drivers, the Gulf Kingdom also terminated a series of interdicts forced upon the women. A handful of loosened bans included that women will no longer require approval from their guardian to work.

Another significant statute blessed upon women the freedom to enter the sports stadiums albeit exclusively for the Saudi National Day besides the compulsory edict of being seated only in a family section far away from single men.

The Government has also passed laws allowing girls in public schools to play sports and have access to physical education.

saudi women
UN Women political cartoon. Wikimedia

While everyone is busy celebrating women drivers in Saudi Arabia, there is still a myriad of bans inflicted on women. These are:

1. Following the divorce, Saudi women are permitted to keep their children with them only till they reach the age limit of 7years (for girls) and 9years (for boys).

2. Saudi women cannot marry and divorce without the due consent of their male guardian. The male head dominates everything in a Saudi family.

3. The women of Saudi Arabia do not have the permission to get a passport without the prior assent of their male guardian.

Also Read: A step forward: Saudi Women take up active roles in an All female Emergency Call Centre 

4. The approval of the male guardian is also required during any medical emergency. Women cannot take a voluntary decision regarding issues that concern the question of their life and death!

5. Women do not possess the right to socialize with men except for immediate family members. Consequently, all the restaurants and places of public entertainment in Saudi Arabia maintain two sections, one for the men where women cannot enter and the other for families.

6. Under Sharia laws, daughters can inherit property but only half of what is received by their male counterparts.

7. Saudi women cannot even start a work unless two male members testify about her character in a law court before she can be granted a loan or a license.

Prepared by Mohima Haque of Newsgram. Twitter @mohimahaque26