Bahrain approves women's rights law amendment
Manama, March 17, 2014
Amendments to Bahraini laws that pave the way for the full rollout of a United Nations convention protecting women's rights were approved by the Cabinet yesterday.
It follows a Cabinet decision in January to lift all reservations put in place when Bahrain 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.
However, the amendments must now be approved by parliament - which opposed the full adoption of Cedaw in November.
MPs tried to veto the move by unanimously voting against the idea two month's before the Cabinet decision - claiming it could have "dangerous repercussions" for society.
All 35 MPs present for that vote, including female members, voted against the idea.
However, Minister of State for Information Affairs and official government spokeswoman Sameera Rajab said yesterday that the government was committed to implementing all aspects of Cedaw, as long as they don't contravene Islamic law.
"There are still several countries in the world that still believe the reservations are strong, but we don't as 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 in 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."
She added that it would be wrong to assume that parliament will reject the proposed amendments.
"We will work with parliament on the issue whenever our opinion is sought," she said.
When Bahrain signed up to Cedaw it listed reservations on granting women equal rights in 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".
Bahrain also 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 lift the reservations, but in November, MPs tried to stop the Cabinet even discussing it.
It was 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. - TradeArabia News Service