A number of women rang bells during a stand-in front of the National Assembly last week to demand equality with men and expressed their refusal to cancel the initiative “Equality between Men and Women,” which called for gender equality in everything, and substitute it with the title of “Women’s Empowerment”.
At the time when the world was celebrating International Women’s Day, the Supreme Planning Council of Kuwait, the United Nations Commission for the Empowerment of Women and Kuwait University’s Center for Women’s Research and Studies launched an initiative titled “Equality between Men and Women”, but replaced it with the theme of “Women’s Empowerment” in the economic field. This constituted a shocking surprise for a number of human rights activists, who called for full equality with men and not empowerment.
The change and replacement of the initiative’s title came after a threat by a number of MPs to question Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan if the initiative was launched for “equality between men and women”. They claimed that there are some areas where full equality cannot be achieved.
The Kuwaiti government says it seeks equality among all in the country, as stipulated in article 29 of the Kuwaiti constitution, which says that people are equal in human dignity and are equal before the law in public rights and duties, and not be discriminated against due to race, gender, language or religion. However, the reality and real application shows differentiation between men and women, which is a clear violation of article 29.
Dr Abtehal Al-Khatib, a Kuwaiti activist, said in a statement: “Women have the same duties in the country and are supposed to be fully equal in their human rights, their civil rights and even their sense of humanity.” I believe there is “discrimination” between men and women in the country and the most prominent is not allowing women to enter the army, as well as the absence of a female judge until today in the country, apart from only two women ministers and only one female MP.
I think it is essential to reconsider the status of women in real terms, as the majority of leadership positions are already reserved for men because they are male and not because they are the most efficient. For example, for many years, a Kuwaiti woman could not apply for a passport without the approval and signature of her husband. This regulation was cancelled only a few years ago. If this is not discrimination and injustice, then I can’t give another description.
Worse, I know many women who are still holding the same jobs since many years because they do not go to diwaniyas like men, who get promotions because they are males and not due to any scientific preference! I believe that equality is required where men and women are working. Promotions are supposed to be made without discrimination on the basis of sex, but in accordance with functional competence.
Ladies, you rang the bell and some may think your number is small, but you are not alone. The message was delivered.
By Muna Al-Fuzai