Women granted seats on Saudi advisory council

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Associated Press

Posted on January 11, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 11 at 4:37 PM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Women in Saudi Arabia are getting a toehold in the male-dominated political system.

The country's king, for the first time, is granting women seats on Saudi Arabia's top advisory council.

The move comes amid continued heavy restrictions on women -- who aren't allowed to travel, work, study overseas, get married or divorced or be admitted to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian.

One prominent Saudi female activist says the move is a positive step, but that women's issues "are still hanging." She says there are still a lot of measures that have to be suspended or changed so that women can be "dealt with as grown-ups," without a "mandate from guardians." Still, she says having female members of the advisory council could help change the image of women in society.

The nation's official news agency says King Abdullah issued decrees granting women 30 seats on the council, which has 150 members. It reviews laws, but doesn't have legislative powers. The decrees say the women who are chosen must wear veils, and must be committed to strict Islamic principles.

King Abdullah has made incremental steps toward reform, but appears to be treading carefully to avoid angering religious clerics.

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