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Women to take 20pc of seats in Saudi Shura

Riaydh, January 12, 2013

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has appointed women to a fifth of the seats in the Shura Council, which advises the government on new legislation, state media said.
The king said in 2011 that women would join the unelected 150-member body, which functions like a parliament but without formal powers. He did not then specify how many would serve.
The council has had 12 women "advisers" since 2006. Saudi King Abdullah yesterday appointed 30 women to the Shura Council.
In two royal decrees on Friday, King Abdullah reconstituted the council for a new four-year term and ordered that women should always hold at least 20 percent of the seats.
The Shura Council, composed mostly of academics, clerics, businessmen and former civil servants, vets legislation, recommending changes or additions to the government.
The King took the decision following consultations with religious leaders.

King Abdullah first announced that he was planning to name women to the Shura Council in 2011, when he also said they would be allowed to vote and stand as candidates in the 2015 municipal elections.

One of the royal decrees published yesterday by the official Saudi Press Agency amended an article in the Shura Council's statute to guarantee women representation on the body, while the other named the 150 members, among them 30 women.
"Women will enjoy full rights of membership, be committed to their duties, responsibilities and assume their jobs," said King Abdullah in the decree.

The first decree also stated that special seating would be allocated for women inside the Shura Council building, and that a special entrance and exit would be built.

Two of the women appointed are princesses. One is the daughter of the late King Faisal; the other is the daughter of the late King Khalid. The council will also have four Shi'ite members, one of whom is Bahrain-born Dr Thuraya Ibrahim Al Arrayedh.
"This is a major opportunity for Saudi women to prove their ability. I expect the initiative to succeed," said Dr Al Arrayedh, who is a former UN assistant secretary-general.

"The historic step is a vote of confidence for women to participate in taking key decisions and promoting society," she added.

Jeddah-based journalist Maha Akeel described the announcement as "a very big step forward".

"These women will bring fresh energy and insight to the council. Their participation will open doors for women," she added.-Reuters and Trade Arabia News Service

Tags: Saudi | Women | shura | seats |

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