Manama: Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council voted not to discuss a recommendation to appoint women ambassadors in some of the kingdom’s diplomatic missions abroad.

Shura Council Member Lubna Al Ansari had filed the motion to debate the recommendation, but only 34 members supported her at the session on Tuesday, while 87 opposed it, reports in Saudi Arabia said.

Lubna said the recommendation aimed to boost the opportunities of Saudi women to take up diplomatic, administrative, technical and financial positions within the foreign ministry.

“I am not at all surprised by the vote,” Lubna said. “My hope was to have the recommendation reach the stage of discussion and debate at the Shura Council. We need to boost the figures of women in the foreign ministry where they currently hold only 3.5 per cent of all positions,” she said, quoted by Al Watan daily.

Lubna said that their presence at the ministry should at least match that of women in the Shura Council where they hold 20 per cent of the seats.

Lubna refused to characterise the vote as discrimination against women.

“I am aware that it was a bold and unfamiliar move and I did expect that it would not go through. It is obvious that the Shura Council is not ready for it yet,” she said.

Saudi women made their mark in Saudi politics in February 2013 when they took their 30 seats at the Shura Council session for the first time at the opening of the sixth term.

All the women were appointed by the late King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, giving them one fifth of the 150 seats.

King Abdullah said the decision was taken following consultations with a high number of religious scholars who endorsed their participation based on the country’s interest.

The criteria to select the women included Saudi citizenship, a minimum of 30 years of age, an impeccable personal record, a high level of competency and practical experience. Official biographies show that 27 of the appointed women have a PhD degree while two members are princesses from the Al Saud royal family.