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Voting Rights: Females

Volume 477: debated on Monday 16 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to encourage the enfranchisement of women in countries that do not allow women to vote. (210240)

Saudi Arabia currently prohibits women from voting but has indicated that it will end its legal prohibition on women's suffrage in 2009, when women will be allowed to vote in local elections for the first time (men were given the right in 2005). In addition there are countries across the world where neither women nor men vote because there is no electoral process or where women cannot fully exercise their right to vote because structural barriers prevent them from doing so.

The Government believe that elections play a key role in determining the democratic legitimacy of a Government. The increased participation of women and other under-represented groups will improve democracy as well as contributing to security and prosperity.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has supported several projects in recent years to increase the participation of women in politics in predominantly Islamic countries.

The FCO's new Strategic Programme Fund will also support projects to promote the rights of women and address the structural causes that prevent women's participation in public and political life.