Bahrain govt approves women's rights treaty
Manama, January 20, 2014
Bahrain's government has approved full rollout of a United Nations (UN) convention that protects women's rights - ignoring opposition from MPs who claimed it could have "dangerous repercussions" for society.
The Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal to lift reservations that were included when the country acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2002, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
This is despite parliament seeking to block the move in November, when all 35 MPs present - including female members - voted against the idea.
Minister of State for Information Affairs and official government spokeswoman Sameera Rajab told journalists after yesterday's Cabinet session that Bahrain was committed to gender equality.
"Everyone agrees that in real life Bahrain is beyond those reservations," she said.
"The government made the reservations when it was not sure it could comply with them (certain articles of CEDAW), but now everyone can see that women in Bahrain have full rights as guaranteed by the constitution and international conventions.
"Lifting the reservations doesn't contradict Sharia (Islamic law) as propagandised, it is actually in line with it."
However, the full version of the CEDAW convention must now be referred to the National Assembly - where it will be voted on by parliament and the Shura Council.
When Bahrain signed up to CEDAW it listed reservations on granting women equal rights with respect to passing on their nationality to their children, as well as gender equality when it came to people's freedom to move and choose their home.
The country also stated one of the convention's articles, which called for measures to eliminate discrimination against women in matters relating to marriage and family relations, was "incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Sharia".
A reservation was also made against an article calling on countries to condemn discrimination against women and adopt a policy to eliminate discrimination "in order to ensure its implementation within the bounds of the provisions of the Islamic Sharia".
Finally, Bahrain included a reservation against an article stating that disputes between countries over interpretation of the convention could be settled by arbitration.
Bahrain's Supreme Council for Women is behind efforts to remove those reservations, but in November MPs tried to stop the Cabinet even discussing it.
"Lifting the reservations will have dangerous repercussions on Bahraini society," said a written submission to parliament from MPs opposed to the move.
"The Bahraini government shouldn't have considered looking into the council's request in the first place, but early indications show it is poised to have them (the reservations) lifted."
It is not the first time the Bahrain government has met resistance as it sought to improve women's rights.
In 2006, the government submitted a draft Family Law to parliament that for the first time set out women's rights when it came to domestic issues such as divorce and inheritance cases.
At the time all such cases were handled by Sharia courts, which critics accused of handing down judgements that favoured men based on male judges' interpretation of Islam.
However, in the end a Family Law was passed only for Sunni Muslims due to opposition from Shi'ite clerics. This means domestic disputes involving Shi'ite Muslims are still settled in Sharia courts.
Yesterday's Cabinet meeting was chaired by Deputy Premier Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa. - TradeArabia News Service
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