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Kuwaiti women lose suffrage battle

Kuwaiti women lost a small suffrage battle as a parliamentary panel rejected an amendment giving them the right to run and vote for the Municipal Council.
PTI | By Associated Press
UPDATED ON APR 19, 2004 04:08 PM IST

Kuwaiti women lost a small suffrage battle as a parliamentary panel rejected an amendment that would have given them the right to run and vote for the Municipal Council. The head of Parliament's public services panel, Mekhled al-Azimi, told reporters that the panel felt the Cabinet was "not serious" about the amendment and rejected it unanimously.

"What do women have to do with the Municipal Council?" he said. "If the government was serious, why didn't they amend the Parliamentary elections law?"

The Municipal Council comprises 16 members, including six appointed by the government. It deals with domestic issues such as permits and zoning.

The Cabinet-proposed amendment would not have applied to parliamentary elections but was largely seen as an important step toward women's rights in this small oil-rich state. Kuwait's constitution grants equal rights to men and women. But after more than four decades of democracy, women are still out of the political scene because of a 1962 election law that allows only men aged over 21 who are not members of the police or military to vote, just 15 percent of the citizens.

In 1999, the emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, decreed women could vote and run for Parliament but the legislature overruled him. Fundamentalist Muslims and tribal lawmakers later defeated a women's rights bill proposed by Westernized liberals.

Kuwaiti women serve as undersecretaries in key ministries such as oil and education. However, they cannot be appointed as Cabinet members, because ministers, like lawmakers, have to be men.

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