Kuwaiti Women Gain Right to Vote, Run for Office

On Monday, the Kuwaiti Parliament approved an amendment to its election laws giving women the right to vote and run for office. Islamist legislators included a requirement that “females abide by Islamic law,” which may mean separate polling locations for men and women, or have broader implications, reports the New York Times. The decision came just two weeks after the failure of a measure that would have allowed women in Kuwait to vote in the June municipal polls. Women not be able to vote or run for office until the parliamentary election in 2007.

This decision follows years of work by Kuwaiti women’s activists, and was widely celebrated despite possible restrictions. Lulua al-Mulla, of Kuwait’s Social Cultural Women’s Society, told the Times, “It has been 20 years of work, but at last we got our rights. It is about time.” According to Reuters, women’s activist Roula al-Dashti expressed similar feelings, saying “We made it. This is history…I’m starting my campaign from today.”

According to BBC News , the Council of Ministers decided to amend the 1962 election law as part of a policy to “broaden political participation.” However, Kuwait’s election laws remain restricted, as only men over the age of 21 who are not in the police or military and who have a Kuawaiti father have the right to vote or run for office. Previously, this made only 15 percent of the population eligible to vote. Similar restrictions are likely to be placed on suffrage for women.

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BBC News 5/16/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 5/4/05; New York Times 5/17/05; Reuters 5/16/05; Inter-Parliamentary Union

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