Saudi women given seats on council

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The Saudi king has granted women seats on the country’s top advisory council for first time.

King Abdullah issued royal decrees granting women 30 seats on the 150-member Shura Council, which reviews laws and questions ministers, but does not have legislative powers.

Members serve four-year terms. Since 2006, women have been appointed as advisers only.

The decree comes in response to rights advocates’ demands to give a voice to women, many of whom have been challenging the country’s religious establishment, which adheres to Wahhabism, one of the strictest interpretations of Shariah law in Islam.

However, the decrees reflect how the king is trying to not anger powerful religious clerics. The decrees say the female council members must be “committed to Islamic Shariah disciplines” and be “restrained by the religious veil”. Female council members will enter the council by special gates and sit in seats reserved for women.