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Saudis open legislative doors to women

Jan. 11, 2013 at 11:09 AM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Saudi monarchy announced Friday that women may serve as members of the Shura Council provided they follow Islamic law.

Saudi King Abdul Aziz issued a decree Friday that women may enjoy full membership rights to the previously all-male Shura Council, the nation's parliament.

"Women, selected as members of the Shura Council, will enjoy full rights of membership, be committed to their duties, responsibilities and assume their jobs," a statement from the official Saudi Press Agency reads.

Women members, the decree states, are "asked" to follow Islamic regulations, including donning the traditional face cover known as the hijab. Women councilmembers will have a reserved seating area and special entrances and exits to comply with a no-touch policy with their male counterparts.

"Special places will be allotted for women, guaranteeing complete isolation from those allotted for men, including special offices for them and for their workers and helpers, e.g. special appliances and services and prayer places," the report stated. "This order should be carried with immediate effect."

Members of the legislative assembly are appointed by the king. It proposes draft laws, though ultimate authority rests with the ruling monarch.

Thuraya al-Arrayed, appointed as a member, told al-Arabiya there were many women capable of making legislative recommendations in the country.

"I expect this decision to open doors for qualified women to take part in all fields and not just in politics but in all areas," she said.

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