News

    Arab Women Gaining Rights in Gulf States

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Arab women in the Gulf States have made small but notable gains in the past five years, according to a new Freedom House study of women's rights in the region. The nongovernmental organization conducts studies and creates programs to promote freedom and democracy around the world.

    The title of the new Freedom House study sums up its major finding. It's called "Gaining Ground: Women's Rights in the Arab Gulf." Senior researcher Sanja Kelly says it updates a similar study the organization conducted five years ago in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

    Kelly says the results of the study were quite encouraging.

    "Even though this is still perhaps the most restrictive region in the entire world in terms of women's rights, we are noticing that women's rights activists have successfully pressed for change in many instances."

    Women in Kuwait make significant gains


    Some of the most visible changes for women, Kelly notes, have been made in Kuwait. Women there, she says, have gained many more rights and opportunities in terms of their economic empowerment.
     
    "We have seen 5 percent improvement in terms of working women in Kuwait. In 2003, only 46 percent of working women were employed, whereas now 51 percent of working women in Kuwait are employed."

    Kuwaiti women have also made significant political gains. In 2005, after a three-decade-long struggle, Kuwaiti women finally won the right to vote.

    Dr. Lubna Al-Kazi is a professor of sociology at Kuwait University and a key activist in her country's women's rights movement. In her section of the Freedom House report, she says getting the right to vote was a big accomplishment for the women of Kuwait.

    "There's so much that has been done as far as having a women's committee, women now as ministers in the municipal council, which is also very important," she says. "So you've seen that representation has increased after we got the right. Laws - some laws - have been put on hold or even revoked when we have lobbied enough, and I'm sure if we didn't have the voice we wouldn't have been able to do that."

    Running for office in Oman, limited voting in UAE

    Oman is another Gulf country where women have recently achieved basic rights according to journalist Rafiah Al-Talei. She notes that despite ongoing discrimination, Omani women have still managed to make gains in higher education, the work force and the political arena. She herself was a candidate for Oman's Parliament in 2003 and lost by only 100 votes.

    "It was [a] very empowering experience for myself and also for other women who were encouraged for [the] next time, too," she says. "We were only 15 women candidates in the entire country in 2003, and there were 20 women who ran for the next elections."

    Women in other countries, notably Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, are also enjoying new rights, says Sanja Kelly.

    She says that while women in the UAE are still very restricted in terms of their political rights and civil liberties, the country has introduced a very limited voting process where women, for the very first time, were allowed to vote for elected bodies in the Federal National Council.

    Women still fighting for basic rights in Saudi Arabia

    Despite these gains, the contributors to the Freedom House report conclude that much more progress is needed for women in practically all aspects of social, economic and political life in the Arab Gulf states.

    This is especially true in Saudi Arabia, where women are still fighting to receive basic rights.

    Dr. Eleanor Doumato, a widely published expert on the country, says that while women in Saudi Arabia have made some progress over the past five years, they still have a long way to go.

    "At the end of 2007, the longstanding bans on women checking into hotels alone and renting apartments on their own were lifted by royal decree, and at the same time a woman-only hotel was opened in the far, far outskirts of Riyadh, but women still have to produce a guardian's permission before they can board a flight for international travel."

    In terms of judicial rights, Dr. Doumato said that despite repeated announcements of judicial reforms, access to justice "remains a problem for both men and women, but it's a bigger problem for women."

    Doumato added that women "still don't have the right to drive a car."

    But despite continuing inequalities, Sanja Kelly says she remains hopeful.

    "Overall, we do see a lot of discrimination and unequal treatment. However, we are pleased and encouraged with the progress that has been achieved so far, and we hope that women's rights activists - now that they have gained momentum - will have tools and opportunities to push for further reform."

    While the new Freedom House report focuses on women in the Gulf States, Kelly points out that women's rights issues merit attention far beyond that region. Part two of her report, which will focus on women's rights in the Middle East and Africa, is scheduled to be released this fall.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora