Saudi rights watchdog to increase female membership

February 16, 2013

Al Qahtani

A Saudi human rights watchdog is planning to boost the number of women members in line with the breakthrough appointment of 30 women to the country’s Shura Council.

“We have plans to increase the number of women adherents and to set up new branches to handle grievances related to the status of women that are still pending at the main office,” Meflah Al Qahtani, the head of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), said.

A major plan includes tackling issues related to the education of women in rural and desert areas and near the borders where their schooling chances are severely limited.

“In some areas, women are deprived of their inheritance shares. We also have to deal with the increase in the cases of domestic violence against women as well as with the employment of women in government sectors, particularly that there has been criticism about the lack of appropriate response from public employers to requests to hire women,” he said, quoted by local daily Al Sharq on Thursday.

Al Qahtani said that the women members of the National Society for Human Rights who were appointed to the Shura Council were free to keep their membership.

“Under our bylaws, a member does not have to resign as long as he or she does not hold an executive position,” he said. “We will be anticipating the attitudes by the women members of the Shura Council on the issues related to women. We are confident that the presence of 30 women in the national body will help reinvigorate the pending issues of concern and interest to women,” Al Qahtani said.

The human rights watchdog will be regularly assessing the results of the participation of women in the work of the Shura Council.

“The increase in the number of women members in our society will also depend on the needs resulting from raising the issues related to women in the Shura Council,” he said.

In announcing his intention to appoint women to the 150-member Shura (Consultative) Council, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud whose stance on reforms, particularly on women’s rights, have been obvious since he became ruler in August 2005, said that Saudi women should not be mere spectators on the sidelines.

“We made this decision because we refuse to marginalise women in the Saudi society in their roles that comply with the Islamic Sharia and following consultations with many of our scholars who supported it,” King Abdullah said. “Muslim women in our history have had stances that cannot be sidelined, be it through views or advice, since the time of Prophet Mohammad [PBUH].”

According to the Saudi monarch, “balanced modernisation compatible with Islamic values was a significant necessity.”

 “It is our right to receive your opinion and advice according to the fundamentals of our religion. Whoever trespasses them is arrogant and must take responsibility for those actions,” he said.

Up to the appointment of the 30 women members to the Shura Council, the advisory body had 12 women advisers whose work was related mainly to issues of women, families and children.

The biographies of the women members show that 27 had a PhD degree while two members are princesses from the Al Saud royal family.

Saudi women are scheduled to have the right to run and vote in the 2015 municipal elections.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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