Manama: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on Friday appointed 30 women to the Shura (Consultative) Council for the first time in the country’s history.
In a decree amending Article three of the Council’s bylaws, King Abdullah gave women one fifth of the 150 seats.
According to the members’ list posted by the Saudi News Agency, 27 of the appointed women had a PhD degree while two members are princesses from the Al Saud royal family.
King Abdullah’s decree stipulated that women’s representation would not be less than 20 per cent of the total number of the Shura members.
Under an amendment to Article 22 of the bylaws, women have the right to join any of the Shura Council members.
The royal decree stipulated that women members had full rights and assumed all duties and responsibilities.
Women members are to abide by the Islamic Shariah and will have their own seating area, private offices and prayer rooms, the decree said.
King Abdullah said that the decision was taken following consultations with a high number of religious scholars who endorsed their participation based on the country’s interest.
In a separate decree, King Abdullah appointed Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Shaikh President of the Shura Council, Dr Mohammad Bin Amin Al Jafri Deputy Chairman and Dr Fahad Bin Motad Al Hamad as Assistant to the Chairman.
In September, Saudi sources reported that 30 women were expected to be appointed to the all-men Shura Council in Saudi Arabia in 2013 in a historic breakthrough,
“The expectations are that up to 30 women will be appointed to the council in its next term,” sources close to the consultative assembly said.
The sources said that the criteria to select the women include Saudi citizenship, a minimum of 30 years of age, an impeccable personal record, a high level of competency and practical experience.
The Council, since it was founded in 1993, had only male members. The first council (1993–1997) had a speaker and 60 members and the second (1997–2001) had a speaker and 90 members. The third council (2001–2005) had a speaker and 120 members and the fourth (2005–2009) had a speaker plus 150 members.
In September, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz whose stances on reforms, particularly on women’s rights, have been obvious since he became ruler in August 2005, said that women would become members of the Consultative Council in the next term.
“We made this decision because we refuse to marginalise women in the Saudi society in their roles that comply with the Islamic Sharia and following consultations with many of our scholars who supported it,” King Abdullah said. “Muslim women in our history have had stances that cannot be sidelined, be it through views or advice, since the time of Prophet Mohammad [PBUH].”
According to the Saudi monarch, “balanced modernisation compatible with Islamic vales was a significant necessity.”
“It is our right to receive your opinion and advice according to the fundamentals of our religion. Whoever trespasses them is arrogant and must take responsibility for those actions,” he said.
King Abdullah in the same speech also announced that women would have the right to run and vote in the 2015 municipal elections.
The Shura has 12 women advisers whose work is related mainly to issues of women, families and children.