It might seem absurd that in 2016 we still have to talk about legal equality between males and females. But to bring things in perspective, there is still a huge gap in legal rights between women and men around the world, even in the most progressive countries, putting equality on top of the United Nations’ agenda.
Let us focus on Kuwait though, were women were only granted the right to vote in 2005. It has only been a decade for political equal rights and it is still very difficult for women to enter the political scene. But are there other rights or freedoms that women lack in Kuwaiti law? I will refrain from answering this question theoretically and instead just answer a major concern for my female writers – harassment.
‘Harassment’ by definition is any aggressive pressure or intimidation, regardless of whether it is sexual or not, but today I will talk about sexual harassment from men towards women specifically.
Question: I was out for coffee with three of my female friends – we parked across the street from the coffee shop and walked. At night we had to walk back and there were no lights or security, so a few men started following us and cornered us in the parking lot and started touching us. It was very uncomfortable, and now we do not know what to do. I heard men get away with things and therefore it would be a waste of our time to complain to the police. Is this true?
Fajer: No. Kuwaiti law is very strict towards men that abuse or sexually harass women – in fact too strict compared to other legislations in the region and around the world. The punishment depends on the situation and the relationship between the victim and offender, and those who harass (not rape) can get punished up to 10 years, 15 years or life imprisonment, as explained in the two articles below:
Article 191 of the Kuwait penal code states:
Any person that sexually harasses another through hate, threatening or deceiving shall be punished with up to 15 years of imprisonment
If the victim is related to the harasser, or is under his/her upbringing (example uncle, aunt, teacher, domestic worker so on) then he/she shall be punished with life imprisonment
If the victim is under the legal age, not mentally stable, unable to know the nature of the act, then the harasser shall be punished with life imprisonment
Article 192 of Kuwait penal code states:
Any person that sexually harasses another without hate, threatening or deceiving shall be punished up to 10 years of imprisonment
If the victim is related to the harasser, or is under his/her upbringing (example uncle, aunt, teacher, domestic worker so on) then he/she shall be punished up to 15 years of imprisonment
So now that we know what the punishment is, what can you do about it?
Please talk to someone and do not keep it to yourself. It is very important to reach out, even if it is just to a friend. It is also important to report the person to the police. As a female myself, I know how annoying and difficult it is to deal with harassment, but the police are here to help. You can also always email me.
Question: Recently my boss has been asking me to work through text messages, which I am fine with, but as time went on, he kept discussing more private matters. Two days ago, he told me that if I let him in bed with me, he will give me a promotion. It is absurd, so of course I refused, but now I am afraid it will affect my job. What can I do?
Fajer: If you work for a large company and you have an HR department, I suggest you speak to them as they may be able to make changes internally. If you would like to go legal and take it a step further, than you can file a complaint at the nearest police station from where the incident happened.
For any legal questions or queries, email [email protected]
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed