Amnesty: Riyadh too slow on women's rights
Amnesty International on Monday cautiously welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision allowing women to vote and run for municipal elections, but said the kingdom was moving much too slowly on women's rights.
"It is a welcome, albeit limited, step along the long road towards gender equality in Saudi Arabia," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"It is, however, much overdue and does not go nearly far enough.
"While moving in the right direction, Saudi Arabia is moving far too slowly. Ultimately, it is no great achievement to be one of the last countries in the world to grant women the vote," Luther said.
Saudi King Abdullah on Sunday granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections, in a historic first for the ultra-conservative country where women are subjected to many restrictions.
"Starting with the next term (in 2015), women will have the right to run in municipal elections and to choose candidates, according to Islamic principles," the king said in speech to the Shura Council carried live on state television.
Women's rights activists have long fought for the right to vote in the Gulf kingdom, which applies a strict version of Sunni Islam and bans women from driving or travelling without the consent of a male guardian.
"The whole system of women's subordination to men in Saudi Arabia needs to be dismantled," Luther said.
"We can only hope that this announcement on voting will be the first in a long line of reforms that guarantee Saudi women the rights that they have been demanding for so long."
Luther's statement noted that under Saudi Arabia's repressive laws, a woman is unable to travel, engage in paid work or higher education, or marry without the permission of a male guardian.
© 2011 AFP