JEDDAH: Women seeking the right to vote in this year’s municipal elections claimed a small victory Wednesday when the Board of Grievances in Jeddah agreed to hear a complaint from a Saudi woman at being barred from inclusion on the electoral register.
Samar Badawi told Al-Hayat Arabic daily that she filed the case against the Ministry for Municipal and Rural Affairs because “municipal election centers refused to register my name”.
“Lots of women have tried to do the same but have been met with refusal by officials from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs despite the fact that there is nothing in the law barring women from registering as voters or election candidates,” Badawi said. “It (the refusal) is in breach of municipality law and municipal council election regulations. The law and regulations give all citizens the right to take part without discrimination by gender, and there is nothing in the conditions set for candidacy or voting barring women from talking part in the elections.”
She added that in the year 2000 Saudi Arabia approved an agreement to end all forms of discrimination against women, reserving its approval of two conditions only.
“Neither of those reservations is related to discrimination against women in participating in elections,” she said.
Badwi also cited the Arab Charter on Human Rights, approved by Saudi Arabia, and which states in Article 24 that “all citizens have the right to run for election or choose a candidate freely and transparently”, and in Article 3 that signatories are required to ensure that “all citizens are provided with all the rights and freedoms stated in the Charter without discrimination by gender”.
Badawi’s complaint, according to Al-Hayat, makes two requests from the court: to order an “immediate suspension of all election procedures until the court has ruled on the complaint”, and to “annul the administrative decision to bar me (Badawi) from my right to vote for and stand for election to the municipal councils which is in breach of the relevant regulations, and order the object of the complaint to permit me to take part in the election, whether as a voter or as a candidate”.
Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu Al-Khair, told Al-Hayat that the Board of Grievances had directed the complaint to its third circuit. He said that no date has yet been set to hear the case.
– Saudi Gazette