Equality of sexes is a topic that has been under discussion in different parts of the world. Some societies believe that equality cannot be achieved since there are obligations that can only be performed well by men. As a result, such societies look down upon women as people who are weak and people who cannot offer the contribution that is offered by men in society.
The truth is that women have the ability of doing what men can do or even doing it better. Denial of voting rights and a chance to run for political positions in Saudi Arabia for women have been oppressive ways of denying women a chance to contribute positively towards development of the country.
The announcement by king Abdullah that women will be allowed to vote and given political rights is a positive move. This is because marginalizing women in Saudi Arabia makes them feel as if they are not citizens of the country. It is important for a leader to have advisors but it is more important for the leader to be able to make independent decisions.
For instance, king Abdullah relies on the religious clerics whose advice in taken with a lot of weight in the kingdom. Sometimes the advisors may be biased and give misleading advice to the king. The point is that although King Abdullah made the decision after consulting with the religious leaders, maybe he could have made the decision earlier to stop the marginalization of women which has been going on for long.
According to king Abdullah, the Sharia law which governs many activities in Saudi Arabia marginalizes women and it is his endeavor and the kingdom to stop the marginalization. This is something that can only be seen through practicality rather than mere words. It should be seen practically that women are no longer being marginalized.
Apart from their being given voting rights and a chance to vie for political positions, they should be involved in many other activities taking place in the country. For example, qualified women should be given equal chances with men without discrimination. As a person who is considered a reformist, king Abdullah did something important that will make a difference in the lives of Saudi Arabia women.
If king Abdullah is committed towards ensuring that women in Saudi Arabia are empowered, the move to include them in the Shura council should take effect immediately. This is because once women are represented in this male-dominated council, they will be able to take part in the advisory services which will eliminate women marginalization. The Shura council which is mandated with the task of debating important issues in the economy should focus on eliminating religious based restrictions that have no justification.
For instance, preventing women from driving is not justified because there is nothing wrong with a woman driving. Some of the conservative social traditions that Saudi Arabia believes in have no place in our current world and should be abolished. During a time when the talk of equality and value for human rights is rife, segregation of people in public places should be highly discouraged.
It is encouraging that King Abdullah made this announcement after realizing that Muslim women are capable of giving the right opinions and advice. As the king pointed out, this is an important starting point of enhancing freedom of expression among Muslim women.
The steps are also important since they will shield the country against the uprisings that have been witnessed in Arab countries. I think king Abdullah will be remembered as one of the Saudi Arabia leaders who pioneered equality in the country by giving women voting rights and a chance to participate in politics.