Bahrain slammed over women’s rights

updateDate = “Sunday, 09 March 2008 11:54′by Joel Bowman on Sunday, 09 March 2008

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights slammed the government on Saturday over issues regarding the rights of women in society. (Getty Images)

A Bahrain rights group on Saturday slammed the government for failing to address the plight of women in Gulf state, claiming women were still widely discriminated against and enjoyed few freedoms in general society.

In a statement on its website to coincide with International Women’s Day, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) rejected claims by Sheikha Sabeeka Al Khalifa that women in Bahrain are now equals with men.

Sheikha Sabeeka, wife King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, told the UN on Tuesday that “women [in Bahrain] today enjoy comprehensive rights, have equal rights and responsibilities with men and can fully participate in public life and political action”. 

The BCHR labelled Bahrain’s society and workplace “male-dominated”, adding that “very few genuine steps are being taken – by either the government or civil society – to rectify the one-sided system”.

“Women continue to be discriminated against in the workplace and denied senior posts in both the private and public sectors,” the group said.

The BCHR highlighted the plight of female migrant workers in the Gulf state, saying that “special attention must be given to the plight of female migrant domestic workers, as they have been by and large ignored and excluded from the discourse on women’s rights”.

The BCHR also called for action to help female sexual assault victims, drawing attention to the fact that spousal rape is not considered a crime under Bahraini law.

Family law in Bahrain is uncodified and governed by all-male religious Sharia courts, according to the BCHR, which are seldom inclined to pursue complaints made by female victims.

The group also pointed to double standards applying to citizenship, saying children and spouses of Bahraini women married to non-Bahraini men are not entitled to citizenship, while non-Bahraini women married to Bahraini men are.

Under the current system, women suffering under sexual discrimination have little means for recourse, the BCHR claimed, saying that Sharia courts and public prosecution has even resorted to threatening activists who “dare to criticise its anti-women policies”.

Nearly 100 years old, International Women’s Day has become an occasion to highlight the ongoing battle to ensure equal rights for women across the world.

This year the International Women’s Day global theme is ‘Shaping Progress’ in honour of the first IWD in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

The UN theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Investing in Women and Girls’, which focuses on financing for gender equality.

The day was marked across the Middle East and Asia in countries including Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and China, with calls for greater rights and equality.


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