Kuwait: Grant Women Right To Vote
In a setback for women's rights, Kuwait's National Assembly failed this week to pass legislation that would allow women to participate in municipal elections scheduled for June 2. The legislation was defeated by only four votes.
"We deeply regret the move by a handful of men in Kuwait's National Assembly to continue to exclude women from voting and running for office," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "Kuwait should eliminate this institutionalized discrimination and pass legislation to grant women full political rights."
Kuwait is one of only two countries in the Middle East and North Africa that do not permit universal suffrage, even though its constitution grants equal rights to men and women. The country's parliament is elected by popular vote, but only about 15 percent of the country's 950,000 citizens are eligible to cast ballots.
Recent public opinion measures, including a set of focus groups organized by Freedom House in 2004, demonstrate public support among Kuwaiti men and women for female suffrage.
A Freedom House study on public attitudes towards women's rights is available online.
The study was conducted as part of Freedom House's forthcoming publication, Citizenship and Justice: Survey of Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, a unique survey of the status of women in 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.