Kuwait is an Islamic country in the Arabian world largely governed by the Shi’a and the Sunni law, which are part of the laws of Islam. Despite the restriction on women rights from most Arabian countries, Kuwait has made great strides in empowering woman politically, at work, in marriages and social activities. The paper will, therefore, analyze the state of women in Kuwait.
Women’s Participation in the Political Process in Kuwait
The Arad countries have for a very long time denied the women the right to universal suffrage. That means women were never allowed to vote. The whole house of parliament in Kuwait, for example, was dominated by only male legislators who frustrated the efforts of any attempts in including women in leadership. In the year 1999 for example, with the election of President Emir Jaber, the women saw political life in Kuwait. The president proposed the inclusion of the women in public offices and accord them the right to vote through a presidential decree, something that was strongly opposed by the male-dominated parliament. In the year 2004, however, the women got a reprieve as the Parliament finally accepted to pass the women suffrage bill was finally passed after a very long struggle between the executive and the national assembly. Another shift happened in the year 2008 when the president dissolved parliament for a fresh election to be held. 24 women participated in this election but unfortunately despite 57 percent of women coming out to vote; no woman was elected to parliament. The president therefore further dissolved the parliament and called another election in 2 months’ time. Following this election, four women made it for the first time in parliament. As the years progress, more women are getting elected. Women in Kuwait today are therefore accorded the right to vote and contest in political elections as well as hold ministerial positions.
Women and the Right to work in Kuwait
Currently, women in Kuwait are accorded the right to work. They have equal opportunities in the workplaces just like their male counterparts. In fact, under the Kuwait laws, the right to work is a constitutionally enshrined right. The women are further accorded some special treatments. For example, the women in Kuwait are not allowed to work during the night shift, unlike the men. In the circumstances where the women employees are forced to leave work late at night, the employer has an obligation under law to provide means of transportation to the woman employee up to her home. Further, women are accorded the right to maternity leave up to 2 months at full pay. If however, after this period, a woman still falls ill due to the pregnancy, a further extension of the leave by four months may be accorded at a half salary. Kuwait However does not allow the participation of the women in the military and military related works as well as women serving as judges in the courts of law, something that brings in some discrimination. In 2013, several women law graduates' sued the government for violating their constitutional right of serving as judges but the same is yet to be effected. Currently, however, the total workforce in Kuwait is composed of 46.7 percent women something which is encouraging. Women also further hold some government offices, though they are still fighting for full recognition. Women in Kuwait further hold fewer positions at the management levels as opposed to their male counterparts. Looking at the general situation; however, indeed women’s right to work and equal treatment at workplaces is being realized at a high rate.
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Women and the mode of Dressing in Kuwait
There are no much restrictions on the women’s mode of dressing in Kuwait, but there are however some social norms that women are expected to abide by if they are to earn respect in the society. Most women in Kuwait wear the “Abaya” type of dress which covers most of the parts of their bodies according to their Islamic rules. The western clothes are not out of use by the women in Kuwait, but such a choice must occur with a lot of caution. The western clothes of the Kuwaitis women must, however, be covered by the “aba”, a certain kind of black clothing that covers most of their body parts when such women are in public. The short skirts, the clothes that show the women cleavage and those that expose the shoulders are not illegal but are highly disregarded by the society, so any woman wearing them is likely to face criticism from the public. The Kuwaiti society further, is too conservative when it comes to how women wear at workplaces. For example, the wearing of very tight dresses that expose the woman’s private parts is not allowed. The society also disregards very short skirts revealing the thighs.
The mode of dressing in Kuwait is not one geared towards discriminating upon women in society but rather build morality and respect according to the Islamic faith. So it is the religion or the sharia law that dictates such strict clothing as opposed to the laws of the country. The wearing of Bikini by women is therefore highly discouraged.
Women and Marriage/ Wedding in Kuwait
In Kuwait, Marriages/ weddings are mostly contractual affairs. The same, however, falls under the Sunni and Shia laws which are based on the Islamic faith. For example, a woman in the Kuwaitis society is only allowed to marry a Muslim if she is of a Muslim faith. Men are allowed to marry but on the condition that such a woman who is not of the Islamic religion must convert to Islam. Again the Shi’a law allows polygamy but detests polyandry. Men are therefore allowed to marry up to a maximum of four wives provided they have the capability of taking care of them. The Sunni and the Shi’a law, however, permits a clause to be entered to effect a divorce in the event of the husband marrying another wife. In divorce, a man may divorce a Kuwaitis woman by simply saying “I divorce thee” three times. The Islamic family courts handle These matters. The divorce of a wife is allowed on grounds such as non-consummation or failure tom provide family financial maintenance, but not on the ground of adultery because a man is allowed to marry four wives. In the case of such divorce, however, a woman is entitled to monthly payments from the husband. Where a woman, however, commits adultery or is declared an irresponsible mother, the man has no obligation of making the monthly payments to her. Regarding custody and maintenance, the law favors the mother to stay with a girl child up to the time she decides to marry or a boy child until puberty.
Travelling for Women in Kuwait
There are no restrictions on travelling by the Kuwaitis women. Women receive the same treatment in travelling just like the men. As a custom to ensure the safety of the women, however, the Society recommends that a woman should never walk alone especially at night. The women right to travel are therefore dictated much by the societal norms as opposed to the law. For the Kuwaiti women wishing to travel abroad, consent and permission must be sought from the husband or parent. A similar approval is required if a lady wishes to go out to see friends at night. Further, a married woman in Kuwaiti is not allowed to apply for a passport unless authorized by a husband. Women past the age of twenty-one years, however, are free to travel without any reservations. Lastly, any woman going to Kuwait is encouraged to dress decently or otherwise; she may face sexual harassment due to what is regard an abuse of the social norms of the societies in Kuwait.
In conclusion, the women in Kuwait enjoy many rights just like their male counterparts except in various circumstances. Women’s political rights are being realized today, the right to work, the right to vote, etc. In marriage, women are further entitled to maintenance from the husband after divorce. Travelling is also an activity of both the male and female except that any woman travelling abroad must get the husbands consent.