Saudi women council members visit Britain’s House of Lords

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Saudi Arabia's Shura Council members visited London on Tuesday upon an official request from Britain’s House of Commons and House of Lords to discuss ways to promote parliamentary elections in both countries.

For the first time, the visiting delegation included two female Shura members, Nihad Al-Jishi and Thuraya al-Arrayed, who will be working with the British parliament’s Representatives and Lords.

Headed by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sheikh, the nine-member Saudi delegation first had talks on the role British MPs play at the House of Lords; stipulating laws and the legislation process that follows before they are adopted.

Andrew Lansley, leader of the conservative parliamentary bloc, said despite the different political systems in both Kingdoms, similarities do exist.

“We are looking with the Shura Council into the means of exchanging experiences and into finding ways to benefit from them; there are clear differences in the political regime of both countries, but there are also many similarities,” he said.

The two Shura council members, Al-Jishi and al-Arrayed, met their British counterparts and discussed issues regarding women, education and health.

The British MP’s learnt about the Saudi council’s tasks and that women now constitute 20 percent of it after Saudi King Abdullah appointed 30 women last January.

“There are many files about women and the nation in general; our role in the Shura Council is to be part of the debate about every issue raised in the Council. We have been distributed on three women committees, and our work will be within the files that will be discussed, where women's voices should be heard,” said al-Arrayed.

Members of the Saudi Shura Council, including 30 women for the first time in history, were sworn in last February. The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king, works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia.

It can propose draft laws which would be presented to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.

Appointing women to the council triggered many debates in Saudi Arabia, which is known for its conservative culture where women are not allowed to drive despite the absence of a law saying so.