Against Honor Killings: Kuwait Women Seek to Abolish Article 153

Published January 29th, 2022 - 08:35 GMT
No to honor crime
Against honor killings (shutterstock)

The British Council Kuwait hosted a lecture on Wednesday titled ‘Raising our Voices’, calling on the Kuwaiti government to abolish article 153 of the Kuwait Penal Code that allegedly justifies honor killings of mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.

The attendees agreed that Article 153 of the Penal Code denies an inherent right to women, which is considered one of the most important human rights, namely, the right to life.

The article states that “anyone who ‘surprises’ his wife in a state of adultery or ‘surprises’ his daughter or mother or sister in the presence of a man and kills her immediately or kills him or kills them together is punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years and a fine of not more than KD 225 or one of these two punishments”.

The speakers at the event were from the Kuwaiti civil society, led by Sundus Hussein, Founding Member of Abolish 153, Mae Al-Hajjaj, President of Soroptimist Kuwait, Almaha Almari, Board Member of Women’s Cultural and Social Society, and Founding Member of Mudhawis Leanah Al-Awadhi, who acted as the moderator.

Before the program started, British Council Director Michael Gordon welcomed the speakers and guests, including British Ambassador to Kuwait Belinda Lewis. “The British Council is committed to the principle of equality before the law, diversity and inclusion. Equality means equal treatment and no discrimination on the basis of belonging to certain groups, which could be defined by gender, ethnicity, disabilities, religious affiliations, socioeconomic groups or sexual orientation or identity,” Gordon said.

Ambassador Lewis recalled how lucky she was to be able to choose whatever she wanted in her life, but as time progressed, she realized she not only wanted to be lucky, but be equal to her peers, especially as she occupies the position as the representative and face of her country. “I saw the conditions attached to the fatwa on women who can join the armed forces in Kuwait.

It’s a step forward - there is freedom for women here. But there are still elements of control over their lives, like you can only join the army if your father agrees to it and if you wear the hijab. The road is long, but we have each other to build more ideas and learn, and keep this conversation of equality, diversity and inclusion flowing,” she said.

Several achievements Sundus Hussein presented several achievements of Abolish 153, from the time it was founded in 2015 till date. “We want to abolish the law that basically allows a man to be the judge over women. We were originally many at the start, but the concept of honor killing is such a taboo, we ended up with only five founding members. But we are determined and lobbied for the law to be abolished from the Kuwait penal code,” she said.

“We asked many Kuwaitis if they knew about article 153, but very few people did. This law is very discriminatory against women. We are talking about women in 2005 running for parliament and empowering women, but how can you empower women when there are laws against them.

Article 153 is against the constitution and violates international conventions ratified by Kuwait, like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Hussein said.

According to Hussein, this violates the Kuwaiti constitution’s articles 9, 29 and 34, which call for protecting the family as the basis of society and promoting the values of equality between men and women in law and in public duties, in addition to ensuring a fair trial, where the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a legal trial in which the country provides the necessary guarantees to exercise the right of defense.

“One in every three women is subjected to violence based on a study made in Kuwait in 2019,” Hussein pointed out, adding 63 percent of Kuwaitis don’t support the law; however, 86 percent of Kuwaitis don’t even know the law exists.

“We have become more aggressive in our lobbying to abolish article 153. We have conducted a lot of community training, lectures and workshops. We have trained social police, advocates and first responders. We believe that if we train many people and educate them, they will be able to help us,” she said.

Mae Al-Hajjaj presented the work of Soroptimist International, which she said has 80,000 members worldwide. Soroptimist Kuwait was launched in 2015. “We focus on five major areas related to women’s issues - economic empowerment, health, education, environment and ending violence and discrimination against women,” she said.

“We collaborate with Abolish 153 - they are one of our major supporters. We want our world to be a better place for women and girls. We are out not to kill men, but to give justice to poor women in the society who are voiceless,” she said.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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