Large number of girls do not know their rights: Activist

KUWAIT: (From left) Abdullah Al-Khonaini, Faisal Al-Fuhaid, Ahmad Al-Mutawa and Athraa Al-Refai attend a panel dis- A general view of people in attendance at the panel discussion. cussion held by Abolish 153 campaign to promote women’s rights. — Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: The Abolish 153 campaign continued its awareness activities with a panel discussion about the legislations that promote gender equality and ones that discriminate against women. The panel discussion was held at Promenade Cultural Centre by lawyers Athraa Al-Refai and Ahmad Al-Mutawa, along with Abdullah Al-Khonaini and Faisal Al-Fuhaid, who represented civil societies in Kuwait.

During the discussion, Refai said that many articles and legislations need to change. "The constitution is the basic legislation of Kuwait since 1961," she said. "The constitution, in article 29, says people are equal despite their differences. We can see that the Kuwaiti constitution guarantees the right of equality for all." She argued that while the labor law claims to give women their rights and privileges, female employees, despite having the same standard working hours as male employees, are not allowed to work late shifts between 7 pm to 6 am. However, female employees working in pharmacies, hospitals, etc are allowed to work beyond the standard working hours.

"Also, the law prohibits (women) from working in dangerous fields. The legislator has a flaw in understanding the role of women in society, where women who are specialized in laboratories and chemical engineering may also suffer health damage. How this legislation was enacted without understanding it?" she asked.

Lack of marriage

Refai added that the disabled law mentions that women with disabilities are not eligible for marriage loans if they marry non-Kuwaitis. "Women with disabilities are suffering from a lack of marriage because of their situation. We should encourage them if others are accepting them. But we push them away. There is an imbalance in legislation that needs to be adjusted for women."

Mutawa stressed that legislations need to support women more. "There is a difference between justice and equality - we must understand the needs of the parties and where the imbalance lies," she underlined. "I am optimistic because women are beginning to understand more about their rights."

Khonaini, member of the Voice of Kuwait group, spoke about the social life of Kuwaiti women. "We visited several Kuwaiti schools in different areas, where we held social awareness workshops. We noticed that a large number of girls do not know their rights. We talked with them about their right to vote and to enter the political sphere, and about our need for their vote," he said. He added the curriculum does not have any kind of awareness about the constitution, rights and duties. Khonaini affirmed that raising awareness is very important in schools, as friends and family are not enough to make people aware. "They should start from the younger generation - this should be a priority."

By Faten Omar