Saudi Arabia launches first ever girls' council — with only men attending

Princess Abir bint Salman, who chairs the council, was not in the photograph

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The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia launched its first ever girls' council meeting with publicity photos showing 13 men on stage and no women.

Women attending the inaugural Qassim Girls Council meeting were apparently in another room, linked via video, the BBC reported.

The ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom has a state policy of gender segregation between unrelated men and women.

The male-dominated photos have been shared widely on social media, with some comparing it to a photo of US President Donald Trump signing an abortion policy surrounded by men.

US President Donald Trump signs an abortion funding ban surrounded by men (AP)

The launch of the council in al-Qassim province was led by Saudi Prince Faisal bin Mishal bin Saud, who said he was proud of the conference. 

"In the Qassim region, we look at women as sisters to men, and we feel a responsibility to open up more and more opportunities that will serve the work of women and girls," he said.

However, his wife Princess Abir bint Salman, who chairs the council, was not in the photograph. 

Thousands share cartoon showing how ridiculous Saudi laws are for women

Last month, Saudi Arabia celebrated its first ever Women's Day.

A three-day gathering in the capital of Riyadh featured speakers who argued for women’s rights to drive and called for an end to the country's male guardianship system. 

The kingdom has been heavily criticised for its record on women’s rights, where women are severely restricted.

The World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap report ranked Saudi Arabia 134 out of 145 countries for gender equality.

It is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving and are unable to obtain a driving licence. 

There is also a law stating that all women must have a male guardian, typically a husband, father or brother, who gives them permission to study, travel abroad or marry.