Partition to Separate Women from Men in Saudi Shoura Council

The logistical preparations to welcome Saudi women to the Shoura Council are underway, according to an official source who spoke Wednesday to al-Watan daily. The official said a special area of the Shoura chamber would be dedicated for women. This area would be separated from male members of the Council by a partition “to preserve the privacy of women.”

Yes, Saudi women will be kept in Shoura Ghetto.

King Abdullah issued a royal decree in September 2011 that gave women the right to vote and to stand for municipal election within four years. The decree also said that the Shoura Council, an unelected body that that supervises legislation, will be open to women as full members for the first time. Women have served as advisers to the Council in the past. All members of Shoura are appointed by the King.

In preparation for women participation that is expected to begin in three months, a committee “has allocated specific areas in the Shoura Council building, in order for female members to perform their duties comfortably,” the pan-Arab, London-based, Saudi-woned Asharq al-Awsat reported last month.

Women activists like Badriya al-Bisher are understandably unamused. “Shoura Council always reveals an ambiguous relationship with women,” she wrote in her weekly column for al-Hayat newspaper, “because this Council did not come from another planet. It is a representation for our society, with its habits and social manifestations, the traditional as well as the open ones.”