Bahrain ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on June 18, 2002.
Upon ratification, Bahrain made reservations to the following CEDAW articles: 2, 9:2, 15:4, 16, and 29:1 as described in detail below.
- Article 2, in order to ensure its implementation within the bounds of the provisions of the Islamic Shariah;
- Article 9, paragraph 2;
- Article 15, paragraph 4;
- Article 16, in so far as it is incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah; and
- Article 29, paragraph 1.
Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:
Since its ratification of CEDAW in 2002, Bahrain has submitted official reports to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”) on two occasions. The combined first and second report was released in November 2007 and the combined fifth, sixth and seventh report came out in June 2008.
In response to the most recent report, the Committee released comments in November 2008 regarding Bahrain’s progress in implementing CEDAW as well as the areas of concerns. The Committee commended Bahrain for its submission of additional information containing new data and statistics, as well as the written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-session working group, but noted that it lacked references to the Committee’s general recommendations. Bahrain’s high-level and large delegation was appreciated by the Committee, as well as the frank dialogue held between the delegation and the Committee.
A detailed account of progress expressed by the Committee following Bahrain’s report in 2008 as follows:
- The adoption of the National Strategy for the Advancement of Bahraini Women to promote women’s enjoyment of their rights in all areas, which includes several plans and programs;
- The establishment of the Supreme Council for Women in 2001 as the national mechanism for the advancement of women;
- The enactment of Law No. 1 of 2008 on human trafficking, which includes key provisions of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the additional protocols;
- The establishment within the Supreme Council for Women of a centre with offices in all governorates to receive and act on women’s complaints; and,
- The institution of several prizes, including the King’s Prize aimed at encouraging Bahraini working women.
A detailed account of recommendations made by the Committee following Bahrain’s report in 2008 as follows:
- Implement all the provisions of the Convention and views the concerns and recommendations identified in the present concluding comments as requiring the State party’s priority attention between now and the submission of the next periodic report.
- Focus on those areas in its implementation activities and report on action taken and results achieved in its next periodic report, and submit the present concluding comments to all relevant ministries and Parliament so as to ensure their full implementation.
- Encourage its national Parliament in line with its procedures, where appropriate, to take the necessary steps with regard to the implementation of these concluding observations and the Government’s next reporting process under the Convention.
- Take steps to incorporate the definition of discrimination against women as contained in article 1 of the Convention, into domestic legislation.
- Continue to conduct its awareness-raising campaigns on the Convention and the work of the Committee and provide training for judges and the legal profession.
- Intensify its efforts and take all necessary steps for the withdrawal of all its reservations to the Convention so as to ensure that women in Bahrain benefit from all the provisions enshrined in the Convention.
- Continue to support the Supreme Council for Women and ensure that it can effectively implement its mandate, and strengthen its cooperation with all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations.
- Adopt and implement, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1 of the Convention, temporary special measures, in particular in the field of participation of women in public life and in the area of employment of women, and raise public awareness about the importance of temporary special measures in accelerating the process of the achievement of gender equality.
- Effectively implement and monitor its national strategic plan, in particular to bring about change in the widely accepted stereotypical roles of women and men by promoting equal sharing of family responsibilities between women and men
- Address awareness-raising campaigns to both women and men and that the media be encouraged to project a positive image of women and the equal status and responsibilities of women and men in the private and public spheres.
- Implement the recommendations identified in the study on violence against women and monitor their impact, and enact legislation on violence against women, including domestic violence. Specifically, revise relevant provisions of the Penal Code so as to ensure that all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape, are criminalized and that marriage to the victim does not exempt perpetrators of rape from prosecution.
- Offer training and awareness-raising programs to judicial personnel, law enforcement officials, members of the legal and health professions, community leaders and the general public, taking into account its general recommendation No. 19 on violence against women.
- Strengthen its collaboration with civil society and non-governmental organizations with respect to violence against women to ensure the understanding that all forms of violence, including domestic violence, are unacceptable.
- Effectively implement the recently adopted law on human trafficking and introduce and implement a strategy that includes measures of prevention, prosecution and punishment of offenders, as well as measures to protect and rehabilitate victims and reintegrate them into society.
- Increase its efforts in regard to international, regional and bilateral cooperation with countries of origin, transit and destination to prevent trafficking through information exchange, and carefully monitor the impact of measures taken and provide information on the results achieved as well as statistical data in its next periodic report.
- Take all appropriate measures, including temporary special measures under article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention to establish concrete goals to accelerate the increase of women in the Council of Representatives and Municipal Councils, and encourage political parties to use quotas.
- Continue to undertake awareness-raising campaigns about the importance of women’s participation in decision-making at all levels.
- Take all necessary steps to expedite the adoption of the draft Nationality Law in order to comply with article 9 of the Convention, and to withdraw its reservation to article 9, paragraph 2.
- Enhance its compliance with article 10 and continue raising awareness of the importance of education for the empowerment of women as well as take steps to overcome traditional attitudes which constitute obstacles to the education of girls and women, and
- Actively encourage girls and women to choose non-traditional education and professions.
- Take all appropriate measures to expedite the adoption of the draft labor code, and to ensure that it covers all migrant domestic workers, as well as strengthen its efforts to ensure that migrant domestic workers have adequate legal protection, are aware of their rights and have access to legal aid.
- Take appropriate measures to ensure that women can consent to Caesarean-section procedures and the medical treatment without the consent and/or authorization of any other person, including that of their husbands.
- Take note of general recommendations No. 21 on equality in marriage and family relations and No. 24 on women and health (article 12 of the Convention), and undertake systematic awareness-raising among women on the importance of regular medical examination to facilitate early detection of breast and cervical cancer.
- Take, as a matter of priority, all necessary measures, including through awareness-raising campaigns among all sectors of the society, particularly traditional leaders, religious clerics, the media and civil society, on the importance of adopting a unified family law which provides women with equal rights.
- Raise the minimum age of marriage of girls from 15 to 18, and take all appropriate measures to end the practice of polygamy, in accordance with the Committee’s general comment No. 21 on equality in marriage and family relations.
- Conduct a study on the economic consequences of divorce on both spouses and to adopt legislative measures to remedy possible adverse effects of existing rules of property distribution.
- Widely disseminate in Bahrain the present concluding observations in order to make the people, including Government officials at the national and local levels, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the measures 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.
- Ratify the treaties to which it is not yet a party, namely the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
- Provide to the Committee, within two years, written information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 30 and 38, and consider seeking technical cooperation and assistance, including advisory services, if necessary and when appropriate for implementation of the above recommendations.
Summary of Shadow Reports:
To date, one shadow report has been submitted regarding the progress of the implementation of CEDAW in Bahrain. This report was presented by member associations of the Bahrain Women’s Union and other national parties in 2008.
The shadow report highlighted the fact that although Bahrain’s ratification of CEDAW is considered an achievement, the reality of women continues to be tarnished with some shortcomings since many of the Convention’s articles remain distant from actual implementation. The shadow report focused on the following areas of concern regarding women’s rights and implementation of CEDAW in Bahrain: the absence of the Personal Status Law, the Citizenship Law, the Law for Initiating Political Rights, and the Penalties Law.
The shadow report noted the number of problematic social, cultural and political issues that continue to influence the enactment of a fair personal status law. The case is similar for the Citizenship Law, and the right of women to give their citizenship to their children. As for women’s right to participation in public life, including political, economic and decision-making, involvement rates remain low, and in some cases non-existent. It is therefore necessary for Bahrain to take concrete actual steps towards officially establishing and fulfilling the principle of equality and non-discrimination for women.
In November 2008, Egalité sans Réserve, Bahrain Women’s Union, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Human Rights Society and International Federation for Human Rights distributed a press release urging Bahrain to undertake measures to combat discrimination against women, as recommended by their recent shadow report and the CEDAW Committee. Due to the absence of a unified Family Law, Bahraini women are exposed to discrimination in family matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody of children.
The press release recommended that the Bahrain government do the following in accordance with the Committee’s comments: raise public awareness for the need to unify the Family Code; adopt legislation to criminalize all forms of violence, including marital rape; take measures to end polygamy; raise the minimum age of marriage of girls; protect women migrant domestic workers; make increased efforts to combat trafficking; enact concrete measures to increase representation of women in public and political life: develop a law to allow women to transfer their nationality to their children; and, withdraw all reservations to CEDAW.
On March 2, 2009, the Khaleej Times published an article that discussed the campaign to demand equal nationality rights for Bahraini women, as the CEDAW Committee suggested in their 2008 comments to Bahrain’s periodic report. The announcement of the campaign was made by the Bahrain’s Women Union in an effort to address the approximately 2,000 stateless children of Bahraini women married to foreigners. Maraim Al Ruwai, President of the Union, urged all sufferers to sign the petition because the outdated law goes against CEDAW.
The petition will request that the government amend article 4 of the nationality law, and call for an immediate solution to the resident permit issue of children and husbands of Bahraini women married to foreigners. It was noted that the Supreme Council for Women has looked into the issue of nationality through high-profile cases seeking an exception from the Ministry of Interior, but the rest of the women remain victims.
On March 3, 2009, the AFP reported that the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Suzan Mubarak’s International Women’s Movement for Peace had organized, in cooperation with the United Nations, an international conference regarding trafficking in people. The conference took place on March 2-3, 2009 during which the participants discussed national strategies, including judicial, executive and legislative measures, to combat trafficking in Bahrain.
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