In Which Countries are Women Not Allowed to Vote?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

As of early 2012, women are not allowed to vote at all in Saudi Arabia and Vatican City, and both women and men have a limited vote in Brunei and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Though all other countries allow women to vote in some elections, some countries have a traditionally low turnout of women voters because of social conventions. The most recent country to allow women the full right to vote was Bhutan, which changed from a family voting system to an individual voting system in 2008.

Women are not allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia.
Women are not allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of two countries in the world where women cannot vote in any elections whatsoever. They are also not allowed to run for any political offices. Though many women attempted to register as voters in the 2011 municipal elections, they were turned down. Despite this, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has said that women will be able to run for municipal offices and vote in 2015.

Women of the United Arab Emirates are not allowed to vote except in special circumstances.
Women of the United Arab Emirates are not allowed to vote except in special circumstances.

Vatican City

Voting in Vatican City is a little different from the rest of the world, because it is a theocracy, or a rule by a religious figure. The only time a vote is taken regarding the rule of the Vatican is to elect a new pope after a pope dies or resigns. Women are involved by default because the only people allowed to participate are cardinals under the age of 80. Since canon law does not allow women to be ordained as priests, there are no women cardinals.

Women do not vote for a new pope in Vatican City.
Women do not vote for a new pope in Vatican City.


Brunei is a monarchy, with the sultan heading the state and the government. He is advised by several councils with members appointed by the sultan, so there are no national elections in the country. The government has been run this way since a rebellion in 1962, and the country nominally exists in a state of emergency under martial law. Though men and women are not allowed to vote on a national level, the country does have universal suffrage for those 18 and older in elections for village leaders.

United Arab Emirates

Neither men nor women are allowed to vote for the overall leader of the UAE, but a small percentage of men and women were allowed to vote for members of a national advisory council in 2011. During this election, about 12% of Emiratis were given the right to vote, regardless of gender, which was about 20 times more voters than were eligible in a 2006 election. The criteria for eligibility were not published. Voter turnout in the 2011 election was low, with only about 28% of eligible voters actually voting. Many voting stations reported a higher ratio of women turning out to vote than men, and one woman was elected to the council.

Low Female Voter Participation

Even countries where women are allowed to vote may not have a very high percentage of women who actually turn out. This sometimes happens because of social or cultural traditions; for instance, women in a very traditionally patriarchal society may feel uncomfortable voting. Education is an issue in other areas, where women often don't vote because they don't know or understand their voting rights.

In Saudi Arabia, it is against the law for women to vote in any election.
In Saudi Arabia, it is against the law for women to vote in any election.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


New Zealand was the first country in the world where women won the right to vote in 1893, nine years before Australia in 1902 and 25 years before the UK.


Australia was the first place to give woman the vote. They fought hard to get that vote in a male dominated patriarchal society that was formed by white British society.


It's crazy that still today women don't have the right to vote. We have already been through so much.


@turquoise-- Forget voting, women can't even go outside without a male accompanying them in Saudi Arabia. They also can't drive.

I think voting is probably not the first thing on their list to achieve there. Although there have been protests recently by Saudi Arabian women who want to drive. Who knows, maybe they will get the right to vote in the next couple of decades.


I hope these few countries who don't allow women to vote will change their policies soon. I'm sure women in Saudi Arabia and UAE want to vote and participate in political life.

@JessicaLynn-- I agree with you, it is appalling.

The US wasn't a leader in this area though like you said. European countries were the first ones to give women right to vote. Among Western nations, the US was quite late in giving this right.

And if women didn't protest and go to jail to demand this right, it probably wouldn't have been given until much later.

There is in fact a great movie about how women in America got the right to vote, although I don't recollect the name. It showed the protests and the things they had to go through in prison. Does anyone know which film I'm talking about?

@betterment - Interesting point. I also wonder if it would even matter if women did get the right to vote in somewhere that still had strong societal views against it.

I find it very interesting that in some countries where women can vote, they often don't because of societal conventions. I imagine it must be really hard to go against what your society tells you to do, and what's normal for your family. So I'm not that surprised that some women don't vote in these situations.

I also wonder if it's not just because they feel uncomfortable, but because they're countries make it difficult for them to actually exercise their right to vote?

@JessicaLynn - I agree with you. The year women were allowed to vote wasn't really that long ago here in the US in the grand scheme of things. So we should definitely make sure to exercise our right to vote. I get really upset at my female friends who think it's not important to vote.

I think it is crazy that in this day and age, there are countries where women do not have the right to vote. Although we may not be perfect here in the US, at least women get the right to vote, and we should all take advantage of it. Let's not forget that we didn't even have the right until the early 1900's, and that women at that time fought for the right.

I try to vote in any election I can, even local elections. I think it's really important that us ladies let our voices be heard.

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