Saudi Women Allowed To Vote Without Male Permission, Can't Do Much Else

Today Saudi Arabia announced that in its next election women will be allowed to run of office and vote without the approval of a male guardian. It's really quite generous, though for some reason, women aren't partying in the streets. Probably because they still need a man's permission to drive, travel, work, study abroad, marry, divorce, or be admitted to a public hospital — you know, stuff that actually makes a difference in their lives.

King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and hold municipal office in September, but only with a man's approval. Now officials say that for the 2015 municipal elections women won't need their guardian's approval. A member of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, a consultative body with no legislative powers, explained that since the new policy was approved by the king, the guardian of Islam's holiest sites, it's fine to let women vote (as long as a male guardian will drive them to the polling place).

Of course, being able to vote is better than not being able to vote, but activists say there need to be far more drastic reforms in the country. Those demanding more rights for women are most concerned with having the ban on women driving unaccompanied and male guardianship laws dropped. Yet, most remain firmly in place. Allowing women to vote years from now is even less significant, since the country is a monarchy and most important positions are filled by appointement, not election.

Saudi women's activist Wajeha al-Hawidar says, "These laws make the woman like a child in all aspects of her life. She is not dealt with as an adult with a fully developed brain." While Saudi religious authorities have ensured that most restrictions stay in place, women's history professor Hatoun al-Fasi says, "It goes against the social rights that Islam gives women."

Saudi Women To Run, Vote Without Male Approval [AP]

Earlier: Saudi Women Granted Right To Vote