It has been described as an extraordinary development. Women in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia are to be given the right to vote and stand in municipal elections.
The announcement was made by the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, at the opening of a new session of the Shura council. He also said women would be allowed to join the advisory council as full members and the changes will take effect from next year.
Women in Saudi Arabia are barred from travelling, working and even having operations without the permission of a male relative. They are also banned from driving, which led to defiant protests in June.
There is intense debate in the country about the role of women in society and it is hoped this decision will help ease some of the tension.