Riyadh: Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a
male guardian`s approval to run or vote in municipal elections
in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first
time, a Saudi official said on Thursday.
The change signifies a step forward in easing the
kingdom`s restrictions against women, but it falls far short
of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.
Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the
state-run al-Watan newspaper saying that approval for women to
run and vote came from the guardian of Islam`s holiest sites,
the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male
guardian`s approval. The country`s Shura Council is an
all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.
Despite the historic decision by the king to allow women
the right to participate in the country`s only open elections,
male guardian laws in Saudi Arabia remain largely unchanged.
Women cannot travel, work, study abroad, marry, get
divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without
permission from a male guardian.
The country is guided by an ultraconservative
interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism.
Hatoun al-Fasi, a women`s history professor in Riyadh,
said just the announcement that Saudi women can run for office
and vote without permission will stir debate.
"It`s being brought up out of the blue and could open
doors to discussions that we have enough of already," al-Fasi