Kuwait women in fresh bid to register as voters

Lutfi M. Hussein lutfi.hussein at ASU.EDU
Tue Feb 26 05:54:15 UTC 2002

Lutfi M. Hussein
Department of English
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0302, USA
Email address: lutfi.hussein at asu.edu
Homepage: http://www.public.asu.edu/~lutfiawa/
Jordan Times

Monday, February 18, 2002

Kuwait women in fresh bid to register as voters

KUWAIT (R) - Kuwaiti women activists, ignoring repeated failure to gain
political rights, on Sunday marched into voter registration stations to
demand the right to add their names to electoral lists.
Scores of women in the Muslim conservative Gulf Arab state marched to the
stations waving banners demanding equal rights and reminding the country of
a failed 1999 decree by ruler Emir Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah granting
them the right to vote and run for public office.

Kuwait has 25 constituencies with registration stations spread across the
small country of some 835,000 Kuwaitis and 1.4 million foreigners.

At one station, the district chief was not present and employees told women
who gathered there that they had no authority to place their names on voter
lists, witnesses said.

In Kuwait, the only Gulf Arab state with an elected parliament, the
electorate of some 115,000 eligible male voters are invited to register in
February of every year.

Kuwait also holds municipal elections for an assembly which like parliament
has a four-year term. The next municipal and general elections are scheduled
for 2003.

"When will Kuwaiti women get their political and social rights? Vote and
stand in elections?" read one banner.

Following elections in 1999, Kuwait's parliament rejected the emir's decree.
It later voted against a draft law which would have granted women political
rights in the oil-rich state.

A new draft law is currently before parliament.

Last year, in a symbolic gesture, some women were allowed to sign up but on
a parallel list.

Activists who were denied the right to register at other stations later
lodged police complaints and launched court cases against the state, seeking
a ruling by the Constitutional Court on the ban which they argue violates
the constitution.

Several such cases have been dismissed on procedural grounds in recent

A ruling on the latest attempt is due on March 17.

Women, slightly more than 50 per cent of Kuwaitis, and seen as the most
emancipated in the Gulf Arab region, have been struggling for suffrage for
almost four decades.

They hold senior government posts, run diplomatic missions and newspapers,
and help steer the country's vital oil industry but they are not allowed to
vote or run for parliament.

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