The European Union has welcomed Saudi King Abdullah’s recent decree allowing women to be members of in the kingdom’s Shura Council for the first time as a major development in the direction of women empowerment.
“We welcome the announcement made by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday Jan. 11 to appoint 30 women to the country's previously all-male Shura Council,” according to statement by Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the the European Commission.
“Setting a level of 20 percent of women participation in the consultative body is a major development in the direction of women empowerment and participation in the political process in Saudi Arabia,” Massrali added.
The royal decree amended two article in the council’s statute introducing a 20 percent quota for women in the country’s 150-member Shura Council, and the king appointed 30 women to join the consultative assembly.
“This decision confirms a positive trend after the earlier decision of Saudi Arabian authorities to allow women to vote and run for office in the 2015 municipal elections,” the EU statement said.
“These are welcome steps on the road towards gender equality. The EU encourages Saudi Arabia to go further on this road in order to tap the full potential that women empowerment and gender equality brings to the society,” the statement added.
The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king, works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia. It can propose draft laws following which it would present them to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.
Saudi Arabia is known for its conservative culture where women are not allowed to drive despite the absence of a law saying so.
King Abdullah has introduced cautious economic and social reforms aimed at reconciling Saudi Arabia’s religious traditions with the needs of a modern economy and youthful population.