‘You may find this laughable but hey, it’s a start’: Women in Saudi Arabia vote for the first time

'You may find this laughable but hey, it's a start': Women in Saudi Arabia vote for the first time
Photo Credit: AFP
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Women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to drive, but Saturday marked the first time in the kingdom’s history that women were allowed to vote.

It was also the first time that women were allowed to stand as candidates, as nationwide elections to municipal councils got underway.

Municipal councils are the only government body to which Saudi citizens can elect their representatives. This is only the country’s third election, the last one taking place in 2005.

In all, 1.3 lakh women registered to vote in Saturday’s election and 978 women registered as candidates – not anywhere near the 6,000 male candidates.

Several restrictions were imposed on female candidates during the campaign, including making them speak from behind a partition while addressing the public or having to be represented by a man.

The decision to allow women to take part was taken by the late King Abdullah, who died earlier this year.

With Saudi Arabia still being the only country in the world that bans women from getting behind the wheel, taxi service Uber offered free lifts to polling stations to push women to vote.

The right to vote is merely a baby step for women’s rights in the Islamic kingdom. There are still a number of restrictions on women, with marrying, working and traveling requiring the consent of a male family member.