Saudi King Gives Women Right To Vote

Sept. 26, 2011 — Saudi King Abdullah on Sunday granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections, in a historic first for the ultra-conservative country where women are subjected to many restrictions.

The 86-year-old monarch made the unexpected announcement that he had issued a decree to enfranchise women in a speech to the Shura Council broadcast live on state television.

Women's rights activists have long fought for the right to vote in the Gulf kingdom, which applies a strict version of Sunni Islam and bans women from driving or travelling without the consent of a male guardian.

In July, several women mounted a protest in defiance of the law that doesn't allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Experts say that the Arab Spring has given the women of Saudi Arabia hope that some restrictive Saudi laws will change in their favor.

King Abdullah said his decision came because "we refuse marginalising women's role in the Saudi society in all fields," and followed "consultations with several scholars."

Text by AFP and other sources

Photo credit: Getty Images

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