Post Kuwait Election: Both women & men have to speak up for women's rights Print E-mail

13 - 19 July 2006 Issue No. 803


Women of Kuwait

By Mahmoud Murad

Kuwaiti women performed worse than anyone expected in the recent elections. In a country with 340,000 women voters, not one woman made it into parliament. Apparently, religious groups have once again rallied to undermine women candidates, through insinuation at times, and by directing votes to tribal candidates at other times. This is not a new phenomenon. We've seen the same thing happen before, in Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. I am not saying that women should only vote for candidates of their own gender, but there is something sinister about the way women are being excluded from political life. Not long ago, two Kuwaiti women -- a philosophy professor and a novelist -- faced lawsuits involving charges of lechery and corrupting the public. That's scary, one has to admit. The rules of the game are being twisted and women just don't manage to mobilise enough to defend themselves. In Kuwait, half the voters were women, and still women candidates lost.

What I am saying is that we cannot blame women alone for their dismal performance in Kuwaiti elections. Both men and women are equally responsible for what happened. It is time Kuwait had a public debate about this. And at the risk of stating the obvious, I will argue that women rights are an integral part of Islam. We have a political problem with religious overtones and we must deal with it before it gets any worse. We have a religious segment of our society that has come to manipulate the course of political life for its own purposes. Something has to be done about that. Women, and men too, have to speak up for women's rights.

This week's Soapbox speaker is deputy chief editor of Al-Ahram.