Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Political role of Arab women in the Gulf

UAE women say:
o "Taghrid said she did not think women could take major political decisions independently but should do so "in partnership with men"."
o "Esmat, a 20-year-old student, said she was happy with the Kuwaiti decision. "I agree with it. Women should have the same rights." "
o "Afra Al Suwaidi, a young student, said she was pleased with the decision. "It is good for women to participate in decision making. They have different perspectives from men." "
o Her sister, Noura, was less enthusiastic. "I think I'm against this decision because a woman has different qualities and concerns. She has to run a house and a marriage. She's different." "
o Huwaida said a woman's experience in running a household would only help her in making political decisions. "Every day women make political decisions. They raise societies through their children, educate them, budget for a family. Women do many things politicians do already."
o Ishraqa Ebrahim, a 32-year-old housewife, agreed. "It's a wonderful thing for Kuwaiti women to have this right. Arab women are equal to men and they should have this right. Why shouldn't they? Women are just as qualified and able as men to make decisions." "

Decision set to boost reform in Arab world: "Al Naqash warned that the road ahead of Kuwait women will not be without pitfalls. "Kuwaiti women have a new battle on their hands. Influence of the fundamentalist groups has grown in Kuwait over recent years. These groups will not give in easily and allow women to be actively engaged in political life," argued Al Naqash."

Qatar on Kuwaiti women's suffrage: "Abdul Hamid Al Ansari, a Qatari intellectual, said it is an important achievement for the region. "Not only women but also men across the Gulf are rejoicing," he told Gulf News. The news was also welcomed by the local newspapers. The move was a giant stride on the course of democratisation, said Arabic daily Al Sharq."

UAE Jurists Association and International Amnesty Organisation women's rights meeting in Sharjah

Kuwaiti women hail vote rights win
o " "Thank God now we got our rights," said university professor Siham Freih. "Until yesterday Kuwait's image to the world was tarnished because women were taking part in all professional fields but were deprived of the vote." "
o ""Before this I didn't feel as a citizen. They (lawmakers) restored our right that had been robbed from us," said law professor Dr Badria al Awadi."

Historic advance for Kuwaiti women

... the potential impact of the historic move to full women's suffrage may be profound within Kuwait, where the parliament has actual legislative authority, [Prof. T├ętreault, author of Stories of Democracy: Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait] said. "It's not just a rubber stamp, so if women got into parliament would they be doing things that are different? Would the parliament be more directed toward nuanced ways of approaching the quality-of-life issues than it is now?

"Looking at things like custody and inheritance, labour laws, this might be a real change that women might bring about that, to me, is a much more fundamental shift in how the Gulf states do business than whether women vote or not."

Although no one believes Saudi Arabia's authoritarian rulers will soon alter the country's rigid, repressive patriarchal structure, some do hold out a sliver of hope based on Kuwait's example. "The first effect is the example that they gave, that this is possible," Abu Khaled, a professor of political sociology at King Saud University told Agence France-Presse. "I think the more democracy is achieved in the region, it helps with other societies."

The decision of Kuwait's all-male parliament was long in coming. In a 1999 decree, Kuwait's emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, granted women political rights but that move was struck down by parliament. Soon afterward, legislators voted against a suffrage bill.

On Monday, parliament met to consider legislation allowing women to run in city council elections. But, in a surprise move, government cabinet members successfully proposed a complete amendment of the country's election law, which had permitted only men to take part.

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