Even The Senate Can Agree: Women in Saudi Arabia Must Be Allowed Political Participation

August 5, 2011

Saudi Arabian women face severe discrimination in many areas of their lives © AP GraphicsBank

Lately, it seems that our two political parties can’t agree on much.  But one thing that every Senator can agree on: Women in Saudi Arabia must be allowed their fundamental human right of political participation.

In September of this year, Saudi Arabia will have its first nationwide municipal election since 2005, but half of the population will be ineligible to vote simply because they are women.

As we have been reporting, women face a barrage of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, including violations of their freedom of movement, freedom to work, freedom of equality under the law, freedom from violence, and their basic freedom to vote or run for office.

In response to this, on July 29, 2011, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 216 (S. RES 216), titled “Encouraging women’s political participation in Saudi Arabia.”  This resolution supports women’s full political participation in Saudi Arabia and urges

“Saudi Arabia to allow women to participate, both as voters and candidates for elective office, in the September 2011 elections; supports the women of Saudi Arabia as they endeavor to exercise their human rights; and believes that it is in the interest of Saudi Arabia and all nations to permit women to run for office and vote in all elections.”

It’s one thing we can all agree on: political participation is a fundamental human right.  Yet women in Saudi Arabia are denied the right to meaningful political participation.  Sadly, this is not a problem limited to Saudi Arabia.  Women around the world are frequently denied their fundamental human rights, including the right to political participation.

While we commend this declaration of support from the Senate, it must be the first step, not the last, in making women’s human rights a priority for Congress and a reality worldwide. Congress must ratify CEDAW–the Convention to Eliminate All forms of Discrimination Against Women– so that our words of support for Saudi Arabian women are not simply empty promises.

Learn more about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and how you can become a women’s human rights defender for women across the world at our Women’s rights webpage.