2 Saudi Women Make History by Registering to Vote

Women have never been allowed to participate in Saudi Arabia's elections before.

Two Saudi Arabian have women made history, becoming the first women to register to vote in the country, the Washington Post reports. Saudi Arabia's upcoming December municipal elections will allow women to vote and to hold elected positions for the first time ever.

Jamal Al-Saadi registered to vote in Madinah , while Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat registered in Makkah, two cities where voter registration opened a week before anywhere else in the nation, according to local media outlet Saudi Gazette. "The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us," Saadi said. "The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making." In 2011, the late King Abdullah announced that the 2015 elections would allow women to participate.

While the right to vote expands women's rights in Saudi Arabia, potential female voters still face many restrictions. ThinkProgress explains:

Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch noted that many Saudi women do not have the ID cards that will be required of them in order to vote.

"In principle, all Saudi women can obtain ID cards without asking anyone else's permission," he wrote. "But bars on women's freedom of movement and opposition from male family members can make it difficult for some women to obtain ID card."

That's largely because of the guardianship system which gives male relatives legal control over many aspects of women's lives. Through it, women are barred from attending school, working, traveling abroad, filing a lawsuit, or, in some cases, even receiving medical treatment, without the permission of their fathers, brothers, or husbands.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the House of Saud, meaning that the power of those elected to council is limited.  However, some women are already harboring ambitions to run for council. Arab News reported in July that at least 70 women are "intending to nominate themselves," and 80 women have registered as campaign managers. Said Saadi, "I may have such ambitions - I love to go through this experience till the very end."

Registration will be open for 21 days.

By Prachi Gupta

See the full story on Cosmopolitan.com

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