Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Tuesday said the Saudi Arabian women getting the right to contest and vote in civic elections for the first time in the history of the oil-rich kingdom is the dawn of a “women’s revolution”.
The elections last weekend saw 979 women candidates out of a total of around 7,000 candidates, of whom 20 women managed to notch historic victories.
A candidate, Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi became the first woman to win from the Madrakah municipal council, around 150 km north of the holy city of Makkah, and demolished the centuries-old monopoly of males in the Saudi Arabian society.
The civic elections to nearly 2,000 seats saw some 130,000 women registered as voters – which is barely 10 percent of the male voters, but 82 percent of them trooped out to exercise their franchise, compared to just 44 percent of the male voters coming to vote, among the total population comprising 55 percent males.
“For Indians, this may be a very routine development, but for Saudi Arabia this is nothing short of a revolution – after all, women there don’t even have a right to drive a vehicle unless accompanied by a male blood relation,” the Shiv Sena noted in an edit in the party mouthpiece Saamana on Tuesday.
The Shiv Sena is a right-wing political party founded by the late Bal Thackeray and is a constituent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led Natiomnal Democratic Alliance (NDA) both at the Centre and in the state.
It pointed out how Saudi Arabia is known for strictly enforcing religious discipline on women, including a stringent dress code, severely restricted public movements and other curbs, while the ‘Mullah raj’ ensures the women endure these ordeals courtesy “anti-women” laws.
“Permitting women to participate in the electoral process is indeed ‘a big generosity’ of the male rulers, given the kind of religious extremism prevalent in Saudi Arabia and also in many other Islamic countries. Such gender discrimination is unimaginable in any other advanced societies,” the Sena said, in a rare comment on developments in the international arena.
The world over, the right to vote is considered a fundamental right for all citizens, and in Saudi Arabia a small beginning has been made for women – deprived of equal rights for ages.
“A new ray of hope is shining… It is possible that the attitude of the Saudi Arabian rulers and the society as a whole towards women may change for the better and help enlighten the dark lives of the Saudi women. The whole developed society hopes that this revolution will take the Saudi women to the pinnacles of social and gender equality,” the edit concluded.