updated 5/21/2005 10:55:44 PM ET 2005-05-22T02:55:44

Saudi Arabia ranked last in a study of women’s rights in Middle Eastern and North African countries and was the only one of 16 nations surveyed that had no constitutional guarantees of equal protection for females, according to a report released Saturday.

Despite gains in educational and employment opportunities and the recent decision by Kuwait’s parliament to grant women the right to vote, there was a lack of legal protections for women in all 16 nations and one territory studied, said Freedom House, the nonpartisan, Washington-based organization that released the report at the World Economic Forum.

The countries studied were evaluated on five categories: nondiscrimination and equal access to justice; autonomy, security and freedom of the individual; economic rights and equal opportunity; political rights and civic voice; and social and cultural rights.

Countries were then ranked between 1 and 5 in each category, with Saudi Arabia having the lowest average of 1.26. The average for Tunisia was highest, at 3.24. No country received a ranking higher than 3.6 in any category.

The report was presented at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, where Queen Rania and other women’s rights activists called for reform through changes in the Arab media’s portrayal of women.

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