Saudi Women Given the Right to Vote, in Four Years, Maybe

In a bizarre turn of events, King Abdullah slipped in one random note as he opened the Shura Council today. He announced, “Because we refuse to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior clerics and others… to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from next term.” The next election is 2015. Of course, they will still have to get someone to drive them to the polls and they cannot go alone, since in Saudi Arabia women must be accompanied.

I find it interesting that the King states, “Because we refuse to marginalise…” Huh? I especially love this part – “Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote.” He also said that women would could be part of the Shura Council, an entity that advises the King and is appointed, not elected. I can only imagine the jealousy and outrage of the King’s advisers as he begins appointing women. He is giving them four years to get used to the idea. Perhaps a lot can change in that time.

Even if women do get to vote, it appears that their participation will be moot. The royal family and clerics make the laws. I fear a backlash on women as they take more power from men who already feel like they’re hanging on to the own control. Is it a step in the right direction? I’ll believe it when I see it. For now, I wonder if King Abdullah is doing this because he really believes it, or if he is smart enough to see a revolution coming from the west and he is hoping to stave off criticism. Their inclusion in the UN Women’s group was hit with negative publicity. Globally, women around the world, including his own daughter, are pushing for at least a right for women to drive.