Kuwait\'s Top Court Hears Women\'s Case for Political Rights
Kuwaiti women on Saturday took their campaign to win political rights to the emirate's constitutional court, arguing it was time they were treated on the same terms as men.
"The constitution clearly states that men and women are equal. Excluding women from the political process is a flagrant violation of the constitution," argued lawyer Kawther al-Jouan before the Gulf Arab state's top court.
Jouan and Adawia Dghaishem, both women, represented a Kuwaiti man, Adnan Hussein al-Issa, who sued the interior ministry in April for refusing to include women in the electoral registration.
His petition was studied by a special election court, which decided in June to refer the issue to the constitutional court.
In July, the constitutional court, whose verdicts are final, dismissed four cases filed by women arguing that the electoral law that barred females from voting was unconstitutional.
The rejection was based on flawed procedures because only the government, parliament and other courts can submit petitions to the constitutional court.
Women rights sympathisers believe Issa's case is different because it was not submitted directly but came through another court.
Kuwait's constitution guarantees equality of the sexes, but Article One of the electoral law grants political rights only to men.
Jouan told the court it was high time to "rectify this great injustice, which deprives half of society from practicing their normal role in life."
She reminded the court that Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, issued a decree in May 1999 granting women full political rights. The decree was approved by the cabinet.
A strong coalition of Sunni Muslim fundamentalists and tribal MPs rejected the decree in November 1999 and then narrowly defeated a similar bill a week later. Pro-women MPs have resubmitted the bill.
Government lawyer Hamdi al-Duwaik, while not opposing women's rights, still argued that the case did not fulfill the constitutional prerequisites to be accepted by the court.
The court adjourned until January 16 to deliver its verdict.
Kuwait is alone among the six conservative Gulf Arab monarchies to have an elected parliament. The emirate had its first general elections in 1962, just months after independence, but parliament has since been suspended twice – KUWAIT CITY (AFP)
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