Kuwait to Allow Women to Travel Without Husband's Consent
Kuwait to Allow Women to Travel Without Husband's Consent

Kuwait's constitutional court ruled Wednesday that Kuwaiti women have the right to travel without their husband's permission, revoking a 1962 passport law.  Women in other Gulf States, like Saudi Arabia, still need permission from a close male relative to travel.

Kuwait took another step in favor of women's rights when the country's constitutional court ruled that women do not need to obtain their husband's consent before obtaining a passport to travel.

The high court, whose rulings may not be appealed, struck down part of a 1962 law that stipulated that women may not be granted a passport without the approval of their husbands.

Kuwait granted women the right to vote in 2005.  Tribal and hardline Islamist members of parliament opposed the move, before being outvoted.

It was not until 2009, however, that women were first elected to parliament.  Kuwait's Islamists insist that Islamic law forbids women from holding positions of leadership.

The ruling by Kuwait's constitutional court states that the 1962 passport law, requiring a woman to obtain their husbands' consent, violated the state's constitution, which assures personal freedom and gender equality.

The high court reached its decision after hearing the case of a Kuwaiti woman whose husband had refused to hand over her passport and those of her children to prevent them from leaving the country.

Hala Mustafa is a senior editor with Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper and editor of the periodical Al-Demoqratiya.

"Women in Kuwait are progressing today, and I think that this step is very positive," she said.  "It could be seen in the view of many outside the Arab world as a very little step toward liberation of women or liberalization, in general.  But taking into consideration the very conservative type of the [Persian] Gulf area in general - and Kuwait is part of this area - I think this could be considered a very significant step toward [opening up] the system and also as a kind of social revolution."

Mustafa says she thinks that the conservative Wahabite sect of Islam, which dominates parts of the Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, is responsible for the lack of gender equality in many Gulf countries.

"The debate in Saudi Arabia," she added, "is still over allowing women the right to drive their own cars.  This signifies that the debate there still hasn't progressed beyond square one."