Women in Kuwait, like their counterparts in other countries, still face a number of obstacles despite intensified efforts to give them more rights in line with the principles of gender equality as laws in many nations prevent women from getting the jobs they prefer or leave them unprotected against domestic violence.
According to the Women, Business and the Law 2016 report released by the World Bank Wednesday; women in the Middle East and North Africa face the most obstacles due to laws prohibiting married women from applying for a passport or getting a job without their husband’s permission. Legal restrictions on women’s employment and entrepreneurship were measured by identifying gender- based legal differences.
These differences were then analyzed by comparing men and women with the same marital status in 21 areas: applying for a passport, traveling outside the home, traveling outside the country, getting a job or pursuing a trade or profession without permission, signing a contract, registering a business, being “head of household” or “head of family”, conferring citizenship to their children, opening a bank account, choosing where to live, obtaining a national identity card, having ownership rights over property, having inheritance rights over property, working the same night hours, doing the same jobs, enjoying the same statutory retirement age, enjoying the same tax deductions or credits, having their testimony carry the same evidentiary weight in court, having a gender or sex nondiscrimination clause in the constitution, applying customary law if it violates the constitution, and applying personal law if it violates the constitution. Five other areas that apply only to married women were also identified: being legally required to obey their husbands, being able to convey citizenship to a nonnational husband, administering marital property, having legal recognition for nonmonetary contributions to marital property, and having inheritance rights to the property of their deceased husbands.
Among the GCC countries, Kuwait has the lowest number of legal differences — more than 15 while Saudi Arabia has the highest number of legal differences — almost 30, followed by Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. The study revealed that married women cannot perform some actions in the same way as married men.
In Kuwait, married women cannot choose where to live, confer citizenship to children, get a job without permission. Kuwait is also among the countries whose constitutional courts have no female members while sons and daughters as well as female and male surviving spouses have no equal inheritance rights. Moreover, Kuwait has no legislation on domestic violence, marital rape and sexual harassment. Legal obstacles to women working stretch around the world, said the report, which studied laws in 173 economies. “We can’t afford to leave their potential untapped — whether because laws fail to protect women against violence, or exclude them from financial opportunities, property ownership or professions,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. When there is inequality under the law, fewer girls attend secondary schools, fewer women work or run businesses and the gender wage gap is higher, the study said.
Among the barriers to women working, in Russia women cannot hold an array of jobs from freight train conductor to deckhand and woodworker, the study said. In 10 economies, it is more difficult for women than men to acquire the documentation that allows them to borrow from financial institutions. Forty-six economies do not have laws against domestic violence, including Haiti, Myanmar and Russia, and nearly as many, 41, have no laws against sexual harassment, it said.
The United States and only three other economies — Tonga, Suriname and Papua New Guinea — have no paid maternity or parental leave, it said. Progress has been made, nevertheless, with reforms over the past two years particularly in Europe, Central Asia and sub- Saharan Africa. East Asia and Pacific economies improved women’s access to credit, while Croatia, Hungary, Kenya and Nicaragua improved women’s property rights and Egypt and Mozambique passed laws protecting girls from sexual harassment in school, it said. Just 18 economies have no legal restrictions that impede women’s work — Armenia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, and Taiwan, China, it said.