Saudi women to run, vote without male approval
RIYADH - The Associated PressWomen 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 Dec. 28 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.
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. Saudi women cannot study abroad unless a male guardian approves.