Voting rights for Kuwaiti women
As we celebrate the victory of our Kuwaiti sisters, read on for some
"timely" history in the context of the "timeless" and eternal global
war against women - Lynette
The News International - Pakistan
Wednesday May 18, 2005---- Rabi-us-Sani 09, 1426 A.H.
Monday's approval by Kuwait's parliament of a law allowing women to
vote and run in elections came 112 years after the women of pioneering
New Zealand achieved female suffrage, and 40 years after Afghan women
got the right. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the first woman in the world to
reach that position, became prime minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) as far
back as 1959. But the Kuwaiti development, though late in coming, is a
victory for the women of the Gulf/Middle East region; indeed, for women
all over the Third World.
The women of Qatar, Bahrain and Oman already have this right, and the
Kuwaiti women's success brings the possibility of their sisters in the
United Arab Emirates, otherwise the most liberal country in the Gulf,
that much closer. The continued refusal of Saudi Arabia, the only place
in the world female driving is banned, to give political rights to
women becomes still more glaring and indefensible. (The UAE is now the
sole country bordering Saudi Arabia where women are deprived of voting
rights.) The decision of the Kuwaiti parliament will increase pressure
on the Saudi government to initiate measures to give these rights to
its female citizens. Here, it's noteworthy that, with the United States
on a campaign for "democracy" in the Middle East, the Kuwaiti vote
preceded the expected visit to Washington next month by Prime Minister
Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah.
However, this victory is only a first big success for Kuwaiti women.
Kuwait, like almost all Middle Eastern countries, is a conservative
society. In Arab counties where women already have the voting right,
the female population continues to face widespread discrimination,
particularly in the legal field, such as with regard to divorce and
ownership of property. In Egypt, for example, a woman may not even
travel abroad without her husband's permission.
In Pakistan, women received voting rights in 1947. But the
victimisation oppression and violence they continue to face are a
painful reminder that political equality on the statute books does not
translate into social equality. The jubilant Kuwaiti women would do
well to remember this.