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Kuwaiti women, waiting to vote.
Kuwaiti women’s civil rights at issue
Published Date: April 14, 2008
By Ahmad Al-Khaled, Staff Writer
KUWAIT: “Sometimes discrimination is needed in a society,” said Kuwait University Professor Dr Khalifa Alhamida yesterday during a lecture on women’s civil rights at the Kuwait University Center for Future and Strategic Studies. While seemingly in favor of Kuwait’s constitutionally implied equality between men and women, Alhamida justified Kuwait University quotas which require female students to have higher GPAs to qualify for entrance into the school and allow their male counterparts acceptance with lowe
r GPAs. When Kuwait Times asked if Kuwait University was in violation of the Kuwaiti Constitution which necessitates equality between men and women, he replied, “I believe the university’s policy does not have constitutional conflict – two thirds of the school students are women. If we see it in this perspective, then we can say there is discrimination against men.
Kuwaiti men traditionally travel outside the state for their higher education if they make the grade, while Kuwaiti women do so on a far less frequent basis which accounts for the large number of female students at Kuwait’s only state run university. Alhamida had this to say about the higher ratio of female students. “The students of KU are the manpower for the state and if we have equal requirements for enrollment in the university, we would only graduate women – and society is built on men and women.” Dr
Alhamida cited article number 175 of the constitution which limits constitutional amendments to increasing the principles of liberty and equality and inhibits an amendment ability to restrict such guarantees. He said, “You cannot take from freedoms but you can add to them – justice, freedom and equality with no difference between men and women are all a part of the Kuwaiti Constitution.
Article 2 of the constitution cites Islamic Sharia as a main source of legislation. On the subject of Islamic Sharia and its impact on women’s civil rights, Alhamida said, “Islamic Sharia is a source of the Kuwaiti Constitution so in the inheritance law where a male gets twice as much as the female, this is Islamic law and therefore it cannot be changed.” Salah Ashour, former MP and candidate for re-election in the first district said, “The core of Sharia law and the constitution is anti-discrimination.” A
shour noted cultural influences affect on equality between men and women saying, “Customs and traditions in tribal societies are what causes discrimination.” He added, the constitution makes no difference between men and women.” Thekra Al-Rashidi, a lawyer and candidate for Parliament in District 4 said, “Kuwaiti law gave women their rights but we have great difficulties in implementing laws.
Ashour made a point to mention the women’s law -which had been on the now dissolved Assembly’s agenda saying, “It passed the committee but after the dissolution the process ended.” However Ashour failed to mention the fact that the women’s law was first proposed back in February of 2007 and had been stalled long before the Parliament was dissolved last month. He said that women have fought oppression in countries around the world and Kuwait was no exception, noting, “History witnessed great oppression agai
nst women all over the world.” The women’s law cited by Ashour, if passed, would have been groundbreaking in the region, if not the world for its progressive proposals. The proposal, which was presented by the National Assembly’s Women Affairs Committee, sought to establish a slew of rights, including monetary allowances for stay-at-home Kuwaiti women with children – married, divorced or widowed. Ashour noted the law would have equalized the passing on of citizenship by Kuwaiti men and women. Current law o
nly allows Kuwaiti men to pass on citizenship to their offspring. “Any child born in Kuwait or abroad to a Kuwaiti father gets Kuwaiti nationality – we want to grant Kuwaiti women this same right,” he said.