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Initiative seeks better protection from sexual violence in Kuwait

By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: The Kuwait Democratic Forum held a press conference on Tuesday to launch a campaign called Aman (safe), which aims to raise awareness about sexual violence and lobby to pass a bill on protection from sexual violence in Kuwait. This project is led by co-founder of Aman Esra Al-Amiri, a human rights lawyer and doctoral candidate at Fordham University School of Law. Amiri worked with students at Fordham Law on drafting a master bill on protection from sexual violence. This project was executed in partnership with Kuwait Democratic Forum, Kuwait Bar Association and experts Dr Lubna Al-Qadhi, Dr Malak Al-Rasheed, Sheikha Al-Hashem and Mohammed Al-Yousef.

Hashem said that this project came after repeated sexual harassment cases that went viral on social media. “After many videos and stories on sexual harassment in Kuwait, some members of parliament presented a draft law on sexual harassment, which unfortunately hasn’t been enforced till today as the executive regulation of this law has not been approved for over two years. We also think some changes should be made in this law,” she said.

“Although the number of victims of sexual harassment in Kuwait is high, such cases are not always reported. Sexual violence in Kuwait is not properly organized by law. It’s only vaguely included in the penal code, labor law, cybercrimes law, and domestic violence law, which hasn’t been enforced yet. Victims of sexual harassment don’t receive any rehabilitation or even protection,” Amiri pointed out.

The kidnapping and killing of a woman – Farah Akbar – in a public place in daytime in front of people was a shock to the community and evoked strong reaction. “Unfortunately, the legal system in Kuwait doesn’t include a complex law on sexual violations, and from here comes the importance of the ‘Aman’ bill on protection from sexual violence to extend legal protection to include all forms of sexual violence, considering it as a violation of personal security and physical, mental, and sexual safety of individuals. This draft also includes providing necessary protection to survivors of sexual violence,” added Amiri.

Aman is focusing on the victim rather than the attacker. “This law focuses on the community and rehabilitation more than punishment and penalties. In this law we suggest scrapping the death penalty for the criminal. In many cases, the rapist kills the victim after raping her to get away with his crime. We also propose avoiding imprisoning youngsters and instead sentence them to social work. We also recommend having female officers at police stations, as their absence is one of the main obstacles in reporting the sensitive issue of sexual harassment,” she said.

“Although the Kuwait penal code includes various articles on sexual violence, yet not all forms of sexual violence are included. For instance, sexual harassment at the workplace is not properly included in the legislation. So, this draft law aims to fill these gaps through securing reporting channels and protecting the victims. It also aims to provide official statistics and train state officials in charge of dealing with such cases, to act according to international standards under international human rights laws,” stressed Amiri.

Ali Bushehri, one of those working on this law, spoke about another part of the Aman bill. He emphasized the reporting mechanism should support those reporting sexual violence cases. “There should be cooperation between different public authorities related to these cases and nongovernmental organizations to support the victim. We should have private hotlines available 24/7 for victims of sexual violence. There should also be an option to choose between calling or chatting online, while providing information discreetly,” he stated.

“There are some legal practices that are not available in Kuwait but are found in the United States. For instance, a restraining order protects the victim by preventing an attacker from coming close to the victim, even before convicting him of the crime. Kuwait has adopted many commercial laws from the US, so we can also take inspiration from their laws in this matter,” added Bushehri.


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