November 10 1999

Kuwait women await the vote


MORE than 200 women gathered in the Kuwait parliament yesterday to witness an historic vote on granting full political rights for women, but supporters of the measure delayed the vote for fear of defeat.

Islamist members of the all-male assembly, who oppose the measure on religious and constitutional grounds, failed to prolong the debate and speed up the agenda to allow a final vote. Parliament must vote to approve or reject the measure, contained in a decree issued by Kuwait's Emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, in May. Decrees have the force of law until rejected.

Under the measure, women will be allowed to run for public office and vote in the next municipal and parliamentary elections in 2003, and can start registering as voters from next February.

Liberal MPs were content to delay matters, since the measure is in force, but an Islamist MP, Mubarak al-Duwailah, said the issue was likely to top the agenda at parliament's next weekly meeting. The Islamists say they have the 33 votes needed to kill it.

Women in conservative Saudi Arabia strengthened their position yesterday with a press report that they are to have identity cards for the first time. At present they are listed as dependants on their family or husband's cards.

Next page: Three-strikes law 'a failure'

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