December 1, 1999
Kuwait Narrowly Kills New Bill to Give Women Political Rights
Liberal Showing in Kuwait May Bring Vote to Women (July 5, 1999)
Suffrage Issues Dominating Kuwait Election (July 4)
Rest of Kuwait (the Women) May Soon Get Right to Vote (June 18, 1999)
UWAIT -- Kuwait's all-male Parliament Tuesday
narrowly rejected granting women
full political rights for the second
time in a week.
The vote was 32 to 30 with 2 abstentions. With 64 members present, the
bill needed 33 votes to pass.
"We will fight on," a liberal member, Ahmad al-Rubai, said after the
vote, which followed seven months of
The liberal lawmakers who introduced the bill had argued that the
current election law, which bans political rights for women, violates the
Constitution. After the vote, the government hinted Tuesday that it had no
immediate plans to refer the issue to
the Constitutional Court.
Full political rights for women
would have been a revolutionary step
in the sole Persian Gulf Arab state
with an elected Parliament, for
which only 113,000 men are now eligible to vote.
Only men over 21 who have held
Kuwaiti citizenship for at least 20
years can vote or run for office.
Women and members of the armed
forces and the police are not eligible
under the current law. Some lawmakers suggested that political
rights should be broadened for men
before considering a political role for
women, The Associated Press reported.
While members of Parliament
cannot reintroduce the bill in the
current parliamentary term, the
government could submit it again in
the form of a new draft law. But
experts doubt that will happen soon.
In a move that surprised the region, the emir of Kuwait, Sheik Jaber
al-Ahmad al-Sabah, had issued a decree, after dissolving Parliament in
May, giving political rights to women. But it was rejected by the new
Parliament, 41-21, on Nov. 23.
The United States, Kuwait's key
Western patron, had urged the lawmakers to approve the measure.
The new vote was on a measure
introduced as a parliamentary bill
rather than through the emir. Some
members had objected to the issue
being addressed by decree when the
Parliament was out of session.
A member of Parliament who supported the bill, Abdel-Wahab al-Haroun, urged its passage saying, "the
day will surely come when women
will get political rights." He said that
all the Muslims in countries with
political rights for women "cannot
be wrong" and Kuwaitis, with their
small population, "the right ones."
Those opposed to the bill were
mainly Sunni Muslim and tribal
members of Parliament, while those
in favor were mostly liberal and Shiite Muslims and government ministers, who are members of Parliament by virtue of their office.
A Shiite clergyman, Hussein al-Qallaf, abstained from the vote Tuesday
after strongly supporting women's
rights in a debate before the vote. He
said later that he abstained because
the bill lacked provisions to satisfy
religious concerns before allowing
women to take part in politics.