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November 24, 1999

Kuwait Rejects Political Rights for Women


KUWAIT -- Kuwait's Parliament Tuesday rejected a decree by the country's ruler to give women the right to vote and run for office.

The 41-21 vote against the measure came after many liberal lawmakers who support women's rights said they would oppose it as a protest because the emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, issued the edict while Parliament was out of session.

A Muslim traditionalist, Ahmed Baqer, was applauded by the men at the session when he shouted that the Kuwaiti people do not want women's rights, adding "Why do you want to force it on them?"

But a liberal lawmaker, Sami al-Munayes, accused many of his colleagues of hiding behind the excuse of the protest, while in their hearts they wanted to deny women their political rights.

Supporters of women's rights will have a second chance, however.

Five liberal lawmakers have submitted nearly identical legislation. It is likely to come up for debate soon.

Muslim traditionalists form a substantial bloc in Parliament. They do not approve of allowing women to take part in politics or to mix with men.

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