As part of its commitment to women’s rights, Bahrain has implemented some important measures over the past weeks.
This began with a decision to grant citizenship to children of Bahraini women married to non-Bahrainis (a major recommendation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women; CEDAW).
This was followed with Bahrain’s Cabinet lifting the reservations on articles of the CEDAW Convention. Although the decision to lift these reservations has been met with resistance from certain quarters; the Government asserted that articles of this Convention relevant to family life are in harmony with Islamic Sharia.
Minister of State for Information Affairs Sameera Rajab commented: “Everyone agrees that in real life Bahrain is beyond those reservations… now everyone can see that women in Bahrain have full rights as guaranteed by the constitution.”
During the past decade Bahrain witnessed a breakthrough in women’s rights as part of the King’s reform process. The establishment of the Supreme Council for Women and its launch of a national strategy for the advancement of the status of Bahraini women is a strong indicator of the attention given to women’s rights in the Kingdom.
Noting that the first girls school was established in 1928, Bahraini women have played a prominent role in the field of education, media, social work and politics during the past century.
On the political level, women were granted equal rights to vote and run for elections in the National Action Charter (constitutional amendments endorsed in 2001). Soon after Bahraini women reached the Cabinet, Parliament and many other decision making posts which led Bahrain to becoming a pioneer in the field of women’s rights in the region.
By signing up to CEDAW, the Kingdom made a commitment to the UN and the International community to raise the level of women’s rights in order to meet global standards.
Following the first discussion of the CEDAW in 2008 where Bahrain presented its first and second periodic report to the UN, the 1st of December was declared as Bahraini women’s day in an effort to dedicate a day to the accomplishments of Bahraini women.
The Kingdom also endorsed the 1st section of the Family law (Sunni section) based on the Convention’s recommendations and based upon full agreement with Sunni religious scholars that the law does not defy Islamic Sharia.
However, a Jaffari law was not implemented because Shia religious scholars and MPs refused to endorse the law and raise it as legislation.
This remains a major human rights issue today, because arguably Shia women don’t automatically enjoy the legal protections of their Sunni sisters; a phenomenon which has seen many Shia women resorting to Sunni courts to seek justice and protection.
The empowerment of Bahraini women is a cornerstone to the reform process initiated in 2001 and today Bahraini women have reached the highest levels in different fields and proven their ability to be equal partners with men in building the society and leading the country.
Any decision to empower Bahraini women should be welcomed by all segments of society.