Saudi Arabia women councillors segregated from men at meetings

The move is seen as a setback for women's rights following apparent progress in recent elections

Female council members in Saudi Arabia have been ordered to sit in separate rooms to their male counterparts and only communicate with them electronically.

Women will be heard but not seen by male council members, according to the Wall Street Journal.  

The move did receive some resistance from two female councillors in Jeddah, The Times reports.  However, they were quickly overruled by government ministers.  

The decision has been criticised by women's rights activists.  

"I am really upset," women’s rights activist Samar Fatany told the Wall Street Journal. "You don’t put them out there for show and then marginalize them."

"I believe they didn’t really want women to win," Hatoon al-Fassi, founder of women’s rights group Baladi, said to The Times. "They did not prepare for it." 

Elections in December 2015 were the first time women were allowed to vote or stand for political positions.  

However, only 17 women gained an elected seat out of 978 candidates, according to the Guardian. The overwhelming majority of candidates elected were men.