Saudi Arabian women join country’s main advisory body for the first time

But they will have to speak to men from behind a screen, in accordance with religious law

Taking steps towards gender equality in a country best known for its patriarchal practices, Saudi Arabian women were today announced as able to join the country’s main advisory body.

However, they would have to speak to male members from behind a screen, in keeping with Islamic laws.

A Saudi official recently revealed that an internal communications system will allow the women to debate with their male counterparts when they join the Shura Council – a consultative body appointed by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz – early next year.

This comes in the wake of King Abdullah’s recent announcement that he would allow women to join the 150-member assembly, as well as grant them the right to stand in the country’s municipal elections in 2015.  

These advancements come in a country where tribal customs and adherence to the ultra conservative Wahhabi sharia law mean that the segregation of the sexes is still widespread.

Women are not allowed to drive, and a guardianship system means they need permission from a male relative, or their husband, to work, travel, study or get married.

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