Kuwait: Kuwait approves draft law giving women the vote

Arab Women Connect
Kuwait's Cabinet approved a draft law allowing women to vote and run in parliamentary polls, moving them a step closer to full political rights they have sought for decades in the conservative Gulf Arab state.
The draft needs parliament's approval to pass into law. A decree issued by Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah giving women the vote was narrowly defeated in the 50-man house in 1999 by an alliance of Islamist and conservative tribal MPs.
Kuwaiti women have been fighting for suffrage for more than 40 years, only to be blocked by Islamists and male politicians.

"The council (of ministers) decided to approve the draft law and transfer it to the Emir, God protect him, in order to transfer it to the National Assembly," a cabinet statement said. ...

Leading women's rights activist, Dr. Fatima al-Abdali, welcomed the news, adding that the issue of refusing women the vote was "sabotaging Kuwait's image internationally."

Islamist and conservative MPs, who wield great influence in parliament, are opposed to Western influences and may prove to be a stumbling block in the face of the new draft.

"I'm hopeful," Abdali said. "If this bill is serious and is not just a fight between the Islamist bloc and the democratic bloc, I think women can quickly gain everyone's confidence."


Regarded by some as among the most emancipated in the conservative Muslim region, Kuwaiti women have had to sit back and watch their sisters in other Gulf states -- such as Qatar, Bahrain and Oman -- make modest progress.

Kuwaiti women serve as diplomats, run businesses and help steer the vital oil industry in the country of 900,000 citizens.

They constitute up to 70 percent of college graduates in Kuwait, but account for less than five percent of the country's decision makers. Some have moved up to mid-level public ranks, but none holds a top post such as government minister.

Signs of change came last October when the government approved allowing women to stand for office and vote in municipal council elections, a move observers hailed then as a first step toward granting women greater political rights.