June 30, 2008 6:13 p.m. EST
Sandeep Singh Grewal – AHN Middle East Correspondent
Manama, Bahrain (AHN) – A prominent women activist is calling upon governments in all Gulf States to work with Interpol to track down “runaway” husbands. This follows a protest on Sunday held outside the premises of the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs here by several women whose husbands deserted them. The women were upset with the delay in their legal cases against their runaway husbands, which they claim were pending in the Bahrain court.
Activist Afaf Al Jamri told AHN, “I support these women who are left with their children all alone. Their husbands leave them and travel to another country. They know there is no law in the Gulf states to punish them.”
The women dumped by their husbands have been waiting for years to get justice by the Shariah courts.
Jamri, who is also a member of Al Wefaq National Islamic Secretariat, General Secretariat, lashed out at the authorities for not doing anything concrete for the women.
“They are afraid to tell anyone about their sufferings. Political conflicts in our country between opposition and the government has overshadowed women issues such as deserted women, family law and other issues,” she said.
Bahrain is one of several Arab countries which does not have a codified family or personal status law. This is because of fears by clergymen that any amendment to this legislation could violate Shariah principles and force Muslims in the country to be judged by man-made family laws.
Implementation has also been rejected by people as rules related to inheritance, marriage, divorce, alimony, and child custody differ between the two religious divisions.
Jamri said the best solution to solve the problem was to track down the runaway husbands and put them behind bars.
“There is no real statistics on how many women are abandoned by their husbands in Bahrain. Their husbands easily leave the country and marry again. The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) governments regularly discuss on security issues and can stop them through collective effort with Interpol. They should be tracked down and strict punishment should be enforced by the authorities,” Jamri stressed.
Several Bahraini women have grown children and were left in the lurch when their husbands left. The women also cannot file for a divorce in the absence of their partners.
According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, 464 couples filed papers for divorce in the first four months of this year.
Last year, the Ministry of Social Development reportedly distributed financial aid to a total of 9,946 individuals. This included 246 women abandoned by their husbands, 1,345 divorced women, 1,050 widows and 378 spinsters.