Why incremental reform is about the most feminists can expect
On Friday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah made history when he named 30 women to the kingdom's Shura Council, an appointed advisory body that cannot enact legislation but is still the closest institution to a parliament in that country. He also amended the Shura Council's law to ensure that women would make up no less than 20 percent of the 150-person council going forward.
Friday's announcement did not occur in a vacuum. Before now, some women served in an advisory capacity, but not as full members, on the committee. In 2011, King Abdullah, known for relatively moderate views on women's roles in society, announced that women would be appointed to the Shura Council and that women would be able to run and vote in the country's 2015 municipal elections.
Nevertheless, Friday's follow-through is a sign of King Abdullah's seriousness about incrementally increasing women's participation. In a 2011 speech, King Abdullah introduced the decision as a vital step for keeping up with the times, saying, "Balanced modernization in line with our Islamic values, which preserve rights, is an important requirement in an era with no room for the weak and undecided people." He also explained that the decision to appoint women to the Shura Council and to allow them to vote and run in elections was made after consulting with religious scholars.