Saudi women join king’s advisory council for first time

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Saudi women join king’s advisory council for first time
Sat, 01-12-2013 - 12:22am

A Cambridge-educated scientist, teachers and doctors are among the women appointed to a top advisory council in Saudi Arabia, marking a major step toward political emancipation for women in the conservative kingdom.

King Abdullah issued a royal decree on Friday granting women 30 positions on the previously all-male shura, or consultative council, although the 150-member body has no real political power. It only drafts and proposes laws for the king, who rules with absolute authority, and questions his ministers, who are also appointed.

But in the context of a kingdom where the religious establishment has held back social reform and wields enormous influence — partly because it upholds the legitimacy of the royal family — the change is significant. The royal decree, announced by the official state news agency, also establishes a quota of 20 per cent women on the council.

It sends the message that women are capable of working alongside men in public, Wajeha al-Huwaider, a prominent women’s rights activist in Jeddah, told The Star.

“It is a step forward and we support the king,” she said.

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