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>> The Khaleej Times


The Khaleej Times - July 1, 2010

by Nilofar Suhrawardy

Though they hold only four seats in the 50-member Kuwait’s Majlis-e-Ummah (the Parliament), the Kuwaiti Muslim women have specific reasons to view their presence in the House as a major success. When they were elected for the first time to the Parliament last year, May 16, they faced strong reaction from “Islamists,” the word used for extremists in Kuwait.

Three Islamist legislators protested against two ladies, Rola Dashti and Aseel Al-Awadhi entering Majlis-e-Ummah without wearing the hijab (headscarf). Some Islamists also issued a fatwa against them and one filed a petition to compel them to be covered from head to toe. The two ladies, however, retained their rights with Kuwait’s top court deciding last October that they were not required to wear hijab. They scored a major victory against those who had strongly objected to their not wearing the hijab. The court decided that decision to wear hijab cannot be imposed on them. The other two women MPs are Massouma Al-Mubarak and Salwa Al-Jassar.

 Unlike strict codes imposed on women in conservative Muslim countries, in Kuwait, they have the freedom to drive, travel around unescorted, the right to vote, pursue careers and, of course, free to wear hijab or not. The Kuwaiti women have been campaigning for their rights from 1960s, marked by establishment of the first women’s organisation in Kuwait, Women’s Cultural & Social Society (WCSS) on February 3, 1963. They began campaigning for their political rights through demonstrations and trying to get themselves registered as voters, according to Lulwa Al-Mulla, Secretary General, WCSS. They earned the right to vote and contest elections for the first time in 2005, with the year 2009 being a milestone for their entry into the Parliament.

 The Kuwaiti women succeeded in securing the right to vote and contest elections in 2005. Since then, more than two dozen women have contested for a seat in the parliament, with four succeeding in 2009 mid-term polls.

Kuwaiti women decide their votes on basis of candidates’ credentials and not their gender, WCSS activists said. If women voters favoured only women candidates, Kuwait’s Parliament would probably have had 50 per cent members from the fairer gender and not just eight per cent. Even Kuwaiti women want to move ahead with support from men. Not surprisingly, WCSS members are against the word “feminism,” which, in their opinion, implies “fighting against men.” “I am against the word feminism, but in favour of the word activism,” Lubna A. Al-Kazi (sociologist) said.

On women still not being permitted in the country’s judiciary, they are hopeful that they would soon secure this right. The WCSS activists say they are for “evolutionary” and not “revolutionary” changes, as “too many changes suddenly may lead to conflict.”

Educationally and professionally, Kuwaiti women are certainly making their mark in various walks of life, including communications, politics, academics, public relations and business.  The literacy rate in Kuwait for both men and women is above 90 per cent. With or without hijab, the progress made by Kuwaiti women should serve as an eye-opener and break the myth about Muslim women being confined to only conservative and/or backward life-styles!


Altri articoli su:
[ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Kuwait ] [ Medio Oriente ]

Comunicati su:
[ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Kuwait ] [ Medio Oriente ]

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[ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Kuwait ] [ Medio Oriente ]

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