Kuwait women's rights law rejected

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Sun Nov 28 17:19:43 MST 1999

The Indian Express
Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Kuwaiti women's rights law rejected
KUWAIT: Kuwait's parliament on Tuesday rejected a historic decree by the
ruler of the Gulf state granting full political rights to women. Parliament
voted 41-21 against the decree, the opposition coming mainly from Islamist
and tribal members of the house.
But supporters of the decree giving women the right to vote and stand for
election in the conservative Arab state salvaged some hope by forcing an
identical draft law to the top of parliamentary agenda. It is expected to be
discussed next Tuesday and is given a better chance of being passed.
The opposition-dominated parliament also voted down five other decrees in a
show of unity and muscle-flexing, effectively rejecting all laws ``imposed''
on the elected house by the government. The emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad
al-Sabah had decreed that women be given full political rights by 2003. But
opponents quoting verses from the Koran holy book and religious edicts
argued that the majority of Kuwaiti people were opposed to granting women
full political rights.
Women comprise around 50 percent of the 800,000 Kuwaitis and are regarded as
the most liberal in the region outside Iran. Parliament has yet to vote on
several other pending decrees aimed at liberalizing the state-controlled
economy and opening it to all foreigners for direct and indirect investment.
Western diplomats watching the parliamentary developments expected these
decrees to meet a similar fate.
Several MPs accused the government of taking away their powers by issuing
laws in decree form, arguing that they failed to meet a constitutional
requirement which allows the emir to only issue urgent decrees in
parliament's absence.
The government said in a statement read by Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah
al-Ahmad al-Sabah before the vote that the women's decree was urgent to
correct the status of Kuwait's democracy. The statement reminded parliament
it was an explicit order by the emir, who has ruled over Kuwait since 1978.
Sheikh Jaber had dissolved parliament in 1986 at the height of the Iraq-Iran
war, citing security concerns. It was restored a year after a U.S.-led
military coalition forced Iraq out of the oil-rich state in the 1991 Gulf
War. Since then parliament has proved to be no rubber stamp, launching
probes into alleged corruption and financial scandals. It also forced the
government to resign twice after the questioning of ministers in the house.
Reuters report.

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