News this week that women are registering to vote in elections in Saudi Arabia has generated much attention. Many are hailing this a step as a “monumental” step toward bridging the gap of gender inequality. The Kingdom is declaring this a significant milestone in progress, in accordance with the 2011 royal decree permitting women to run and vote in municipal polls to be held in December.

Before rejoicing this seemingly progressive step, it is pertinent to look at what it means for women in reality instead of just a decree on paper. When it comes to freedom of political rights and civil liberties, Saudia Arabia ranks in the ten worst scoring countries in the world, according to the Freedom House’s annual report. Citizens that even hint that political and human rights should be expanded have been tried as terrorists within a judiciary system that is closely aligned with the monarchy. Keeping this in view the question arises that in such a politically closed system, where any sort of opinion is punishable by law, what good is women registering to vote, when that vote counts for nothing?

The votes that women will now have, then, are good for half of the seats for a largely advisory group in a system completely dominated by the King and his family. The other half are selected by the Monarch himself. Remember that this is a country that still does not allow women to drive and the moral police can physically punish women for not adhering to the strict dress code. This entirely means that while the Saudi government has advertised the right to vote of women in municipal elections as a step forward in a larger process toward enhanced women’s rights, the idea of incremental change is a myth given the thoroughly closed nature of the Saudi system. We can celebrate the change in rights but we must see the situation for what it is.