On Sunday, Saudi Arabia held its first elections allowing women both to vote and to run for office. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, but since 2005 it has held municipal elections for 2100 councils to decide local matters, such as budgets and zoning questions.
A total of 980 female candidates tossed their hijabs in the ring. Women were successful in their bids for 20 council seats. There were 130,000 women registered to vote, compared to 1.35 million men, so it appears that more than a few Saudi men considered the woman to be the best candidate.
Saudi Arabia ranked 127th out of 136 countries for gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Gender Gap Report.
Under Saudi Wahhabism, women -regardless of their age -are required to have a male guardian. A woman must have her guardian’s permission to marry or divorce, travel, get an education, work for pay, open a bank account, or undergo some medical proceedures.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive. Strict sex segregation is enforced in public and most private settings.
Congratulations to the winners, and to all the women of the Saudi Kingdom.