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Shura members pledge to elevate status of women

Divorcées, widows, social victims to be given special attention

Gulf News

Manama: The personal status law and the full rights of divorcées and widows will top the list of concerns, the women members of the Saudi Shura have said.

Hours after they were sworn in by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud who made history by appointing 30 women to the 150-member advisory council, the members said that they were “fully aware of the plight of divorced women and the women who are deprived of their rights to inheritance due to customs and traditions that have nothing to do with Islam.”

“We are also conscious of the suffering of battered women and of the need to activate the laws on the civil rights of Saudi women,” they said in remarks published by Saudi daily Al Madinah on Thursday.

“It is a formidable task and a huge responsibility, especially after we swore to God to assume it to the best of our capabilities,” Dr Ferdous Bint Saud Al Saleh, said. “We hope to be up to the pledges and expectations and we certainly need prayers and support,” she said, quoted by the daily.

Dr Haya Al Manee said that there was not yet a specific agenda, but insisted that social issues would figure high on the members’ action plans.

“I strongly feel about the plight of divorcées and women who are deprived of their inheritance rights as they are the helpless victims of traditions and customs that have nothing to do with our religion,” she said. “There is also an urgent need to address the issues of concern to young men and women. They are the assets of our future and do deserve our attention. The women members of the Shura will not be confined in their work to the status of women. However, their presence in the Council will certainly help to widen the look at the legislation that needs to be enhanced to make it compatible with the new features and character of modern times,” she said.

Dr Salwa Al Hazza said that she would focus on the personal status of women and on the conditions of divorcées and widows.

“They deserve to have their full rights,” she said.

The women appointed to the Shura Council are among the country’s elite with 27 holding PhD degrees. Two are princesses from the royal family well known for their work with charity foundations.

Following the appointment of the women, Saudi Arabia jumped from the 184th rank on the world’s list of the percentage of women in parliament to the 80th place, well ahead of the US, Ireland, Russia, India and Brazil.