Saudi Women Still Aren't Allowed To Drive, But They Just Won A Huge Democratic Right

Yet there's still so much to do for women's rights there.

In a progressive move for the patriarchy-heavy country of Saudi Arabia, women will be able to vote in for the first time ever during the municipal elections. 

Set to take place at the end of the year, the elections also mark the first time women will be allowed to stand as candidates. The move is four years in the making, since King Abdullah granted equal voting rights in 2011 following international backlash. 

Kingdom officials describe it as a "significant milestone in progress towards a participation-based society."

It's a good start, but Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go on women's rights.

Women in Saudi Arabia have appallingly few rights, though restrictions have incrementally loosened over the years. In an effort to bring about a change, King Abdullah has appointed women to the Saudi's 150-member advisory body and allowed female athletes to compete at the London Olympics, their conservative outfits in stark contrast to their competitors'. 

There are still many things forbidden to women because of their gender: women cannot drive, cannot go anywhere without a male chaperone, are severely limited in their interaction with male non-relatives, cannot wear clothes or makeup that "show off their beauty," among other things. 

But their participation in the electoral process — though Saudi Arabia is a monarchy — is a step in the right direction. A reported 70 women intend to run for office and another 80 to work as campaign managers.

Cover image via iStock/ramzihachicho