Kuwait ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on September 2, 1994.
Upon ratification, Kuwait made reservations to the following CEDAW articles: 9:2, 16 and 29:1 as described in detail below.
- Article 9, paragraph 2: The Government of Kuwait reserves its right not to implement the provision contained in article 9, paragraph 2, of the Convention, inasmuch as it runs counter to the Kuwaiti Nationality Act, which stipulates that a child’s nationality shall be determined by that of his father.
- Article 16 (f): The Government of the State of Kuwait declares that it does not consider itself bound by the provision contained in article 16 (f) inasmuch as it conflicts with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah , Islam being the official religion of the State.
- Article 29: The Government of Kuwait declares that it is not bound by the provision contained in article 29, paragraph 1.
Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:
To date, Kuwait has submitted one official periodic report to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”). The combined first and second periodic report was released in August 2002. In response to Kuwait’s preliminary report, the Committee released comments in 2004 regarding Kuwait’s progress in implementing CEDAW as well as the areas of concerns.
A detailed account of progress expressed by the Committee following Kuwait’s report in 2002 as follows:
- Publishing the Convention in the Official Gazette, thus giving it the force of national law.
- Efforts made in 1999, through an Amiri Decree, to grant women their full political rights.
- Establishing institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, particularly the National Assembly’s standing committee on human rights, which is tasked with, inter alia, studying and proposing amendments to national legislation to guarantee and safeguard human rights.
- Progress made in reducing the rate of female illiteracy in Kuwait, and in increasing the level of education attained by girls and women in Kuwait and the enrollment rates of girls and women at all levels of education.
A detailed account of recommendations made by the Committee following Kuwait’s report in 2002 as follows:
- Take all necessary steps, as a matter of the utmost urgency, to introduce and actively support the adoption of legislation to amend the discriminatory provisions of the Electoral Law in line with the constitutional guarantee of equality and in order to ensure compliance with the Convention.
- Expedite the necessary steps for the withdrawal of its reservation to article 7 (a) of the Convention, which it believes to be contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention.
- Expedite the necessary steps for the withdrawal of its reservations to article 9, paragraph 2, and article 16 (f) of the Convention.
- Provide, in its next report, comprehensive information on the effect of its reservations on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention and the situation of women in Kuwait, and in this regard, draws attention to its statement on reservations.
- Ensure the primacy, direct applicability and enforceability of the Convention within the national legal framework of Kuwait, and launch a comprehensive program of dissemination, education and training on the Convention, in particular for government officials and legislators, as well as judicial officers, including law enforcement officials and the judiciary, and for civil society and the public at large with a view to ensuring that the provisions of the Convention are known and implemented in Kuwait.
- Take urgent steps to incorporate the definition of discrimination against women as contained in article 1 of the Convention in its national legislation.
- Undertake a comprehensive review of all existing laws, including the Nationality Act, and to amend or repeal discriminatory provisions so as to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
- Raise the minimum age of marriage for women and men to 18 years, in line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Clarify, in its next report, the mandate and responsibilities of the various components of the national machinery, coordination among them, and the resources allocated to them, and ensure that the national machinery involves more women at the decision-making level and is provided with adequate visibility, power and resources to effectively promote the advancement of women.
- Develop, adopt and implement, at the national level, a comprehensive and coordinated plan of action to promote gender equality and to ensure gender mainstreaming at all levels and in all areas.
- Design, implement and strengthen comprehensive awareness-raising measures to foster a better understanding of equality between women and men, at all levels of society, with a view to eradicating traditional stereotypes regarding the role and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society, and encourage the media to promote cultural changes with regard to the roles and responsibilities attributed to women and men, as required by article 5 of the Convention.
- Increase its efforts towards accelerating the achievement of de facto equal opportunities for women and men in the area of employment through, inter alia, the use of temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, and general recommendation 25.
- Take measures to promote change concerning the stereotypical expectations of women’s roles and to promote the equal sharing of domestic and family responsibilities between women and men.
- Provide detailed information and statistical data on women’s representation, particularly in decision-making positions, in various areas of public life, including in law enforcement, the judiciary and the diplomatic corps in its next report.
- Take measures to increase the representation of women in all areas of public life, including at the decision-making level, and in law enforcement, the judiciary and the diplomatic corps, through the use of temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, and general recommendation 25, as well as general recommendation 23, and undertake and support awareness-raising programs on the importance of women’s representation, in particular at decision-making levels, in all areas of public life.
- Provide, in its next report, detailed information and statistical data on the situation of non-Kuwaiti women, in particular with regard to education, health and employment as well as information about the availability of services and programs for protecting women domestic migrant workers from violence and abuse and the availability of legal and administrative remedies, and on steps taken to inform women migrant workers about the availability of such services and remedies.
- Recognize that violence against women constitutes a violation of the human rights of women under the Convention.
- Undertake the systematic collection of sex-disaggregated data on all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, as well as research into the extent and root causes of such violence, including against women migrant workers and non-Kuwaiti women, and to provide such information in its next report.
- In the light of general recommendation 19, ensure that all forms of violence against women and girls are prosecuted and punished promptly and that victims have immediate means of redress and protection, and take measures to fully sensitize public officials, especially law enforcement officials, the judiciary and health-care providers, and to train them to handle such situations adequately, and undertake awareness-raising measures aimed at the public at large to make such violence socially and morally unacceptable.
- Enhance collaboration and coordination with civil society organizations, in particular women’s associations, to strengthen implementation of the provisions of the Convention, and to engage in consultations with such organizations when preparing its next report.
- Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and to accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention, concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
- Respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention, and submit its third periodic report, which was due in 2003, and its fourth periodic report, due in 2007, in a combined report in 2007.
- Include in its next periodic report, information on the implementation of aspects of those documents relating to relevant articles of the Convention.
- Disseminate widely in Kuwait of the present concluding comments in order to make the people, in particular government administrators and politicians, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality of women, as well as the further steps that are required in this regard.
- Continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention, its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
Summary of Shadow Reports:
To date, no shadow report has been submitted regarding the implementation of CEDAW in Kuwait.
Over the past several decades, Kuwait has made significant progress towards improving the status of women and ensuring gender equality. Women have opportunities to pursue higher education, and currently comprise two-thirds of university-level students. In addition, women’s presence in the work force has increased steadily and should continue in the future, despite laws limiting women’s work. One law prohibits most women from working between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. and another prohibits women from working jobs that may be dangerous, difficult or harmful to health. The law prevents women from engaging in “immoral” occupations that exploit their bodies, and prohibits women from working for institutions that provide services only to men.
On May 16, 2005, the Parliament approved an amendment that gives women full political rights, including electoral rights. Following this decision, two women ran for municipal council elections, where they were defeated by their male candidates and a weak 28.7% of eligible female voters actually participated in the election. There are many opponents to women’s suffrage, primarily by Islamic and traditional leaders who argue that women’s exposure to public life by voting will lead to their moral decline.
Currently, women hold many positions in government, and have made recent advances at the top levels of leadership. In 2005, the first female was appointed as Minister of Planning and Administrative Development; she was later appointed as Minister of Health in the Cabinet in 2007. Another female was appointed as Minister of Education and Higher Studies in the same cabinet, and in 2005, two women were appointed to the 16-member municipal council.
The Federation of Kuwaiti Women’s Associations and the Women’s Cultural and Social Society are the two most prominent women’s groups in Kuwait. The Federation is tightly regulated by the Kuwaiti government, and is the only group allowed to represent Kuwait on the international level. The Society was initially a charity organization, but has become an active advocate for women’s rights. Many other organizations such as the Women Affairs Committee and the Kuwait’s Union of Women Societies have organized campaigns and conferences to protest the exclusion of women in the political arena.
Despite Kuwait’s ratification of CEDAW, women face certain legal inequalities, largely related to the personal status law. Under this law, women face discrimination in terms of testimony, nationality, divorce and inheritance. Despite its initial reservation to article 7, which relates to the authority of the international dispute resolution mechanisms created by the CEDAW, the Government of Kuwait informed the Secretary-General, by a notification received on 9 December 2005, of its decision to withdraw the following reservation in respect of article 7 (a), made upon accession to the Convention, which read as follows: The Government of Kuwait enters a reservation regarding article 7 (a), inasmuch as the provision contained in that paragraph conflicts with the Kuwaiti Electoral Act, under which the right to be eligible for election and to vote is restricted to males.
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