The Council comprises forty members appointed directly by the King of Bahrain. The forty seats of the Consultative Council combined with the forty elected seats of the Council of Representatives form the National Assembly of Bahrain. All laws (except for “Royal decrees”) have to be passed by both chambers of the Assembly. This allows technical expertise and minority communities a role within the legislative process: in Bahrain, a Bahraini Christian woman, Alees Samaan and a Bahraini Jewish man have been appointed. After there was widespread disappointment that no women were elected to the lower house in 2002’s general election, four women were appointed to the Consultative Council.
Alees Samann made history in the Arab world on 18 April 2004 when she became the first woman to chair a session of parliament in the region. The BBC reported: “Incidents of this kind in the Arab world are increasingly being seen as signs of a gradual change towards more open and democratic societies in the entire region.”
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