Saudi Suffragettes?

In Saudi Arabia religious custom and cultural norms restrict women’s lives and rights in significant ways. They cannot engage in activities that many women elsewhere take for granted, like driving a car, traveling without male chaperones or interacting with men not related to them. They cannot participate in certain sports (like swimming) or read uncensored magazines. But thanks to a decree by the late King Abdullah, there is one thing they now can do, though in a limited fashion. They can vote.

In the country of 20 million, there are 1.5 million registered voters; now 130,000 of them are women. In the municipal elections held on Dec. 12, there were 6,900 candidates vying for 2,112 seats in the desert kingdom’s 284 local councils. Of the 979 women who ran for office, about 20 were elected. This is the third time in the country’s history that an election of this kind has been held and the first in which women participated. While the number of women elected is small, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction for the country’s future.

Advertisement

Three factors precipitated this new opening for women: the widespread use of social media, a growing youth population and the increasing number of women in the workforce. All of these have contributed to lifting slightly the veil of social and political isolation Saudi women have had to endure. Still, there is a long way to go before Saudi women can claim the rights that men have in running the affairs of their country.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Lisa Weber
2 years 4 months ago
The right to vote is a start. Any kind of progress is encouraging.
TOM KILCOYNE
2 years 4 months ago
It is thought-provoking how effectively the final sentence invites the reader to substitute "Catholic" for "Saudi" and "Church" for country.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

 Pope Francis arrives in procession to celebrate Mass marking the feast of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 20. The pope at his "Regina Coeli" announced that he will create 14 new cardinals June 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Eleven of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and so have the right to vote in the next conclave.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 20, 2018
Images: AP, Wikimedia Commons
Bishop Curry described Teilhard as “one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.”
Angelo Jesus CantaMay 19, 2018
Both men were close to each other in life, and both are much revered by Pope Francis.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 19, 2018
The Gaza Nakba demonstrations this week have done nothing to advance the situation of Palestinian refugees, nor did they provide relief to the people of Gaza, who dwell in an open-air prison, hemmed in and oppressed at every turn.