By Staff writer
No mixed-sex meetings or offices despite landmark first year for female elected members
Female council members in Saudi Arabia have been warned against interacting with their male colleagues, local media have reported.
Saudi Arabia this year allowed women to vote and stand as elected representatives in municipal elections.
However, the director-general of Municipal Council Affairs, Judai Al Qahtani, has issued a statement warning that this does not mean women are allowed to have face-to-face interactions with male counterparts, according to Saudi Gazette.
“We are making a lot of new adjustments with the participation of women in the council. However, we will not compromise the religious boundaries.
“Female members have equal rights as male members of the council but they will not have mixed meetings.”
According to Al Qahtani, women councillors should have separate meetings and offices from men.
Citing Arabic daily Al Hayat, the newspaper said the total number of women winning the municipal council seats reached 21 after a final vote count. A total of 702,542 voters — 130,000 of whom were women — took part in the voting.
Aisha Bakri, municipal council member for the Jazan area who ran for the seat alongside seven other women and 143 men, was quoted as saying: “I am grateful that I won and I will represent all women in my area.
“The ones who have lost have not lost hope and they plan to run again in four years. We are not as experienced as our male peers, but the women who ran have gained experience and will come back prepared.”