Saudi women, suffrage, agunot, and the slow-ticking clock of change
The news that Saudi women will soon be given the right to vote – if the year 2015 is considered “soon” – is being hailed around the world as remarkable. The BBC called it “groundbreaking”, the White House called it an “important step forward”, and Saudi women’s activists called it “great news”. But this change, which arrived a century late (Finland became the first country to grant universal suffrage in 1906, and a dozen other countries followed suit), is also a troubling indicator about the reality of women’s lives, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. It demonstrates just how far behind Arab culture is from the Western world, and it is a disquieting reminder of just how dangerous the language of “slow change” can be, especially for women – in all cultures.