2 – 9 Apr 2015

MPs have once again voted against the calls of Government ministers by voting for a bill committing the Government to set time periods for implementing private proposals introduced by MPs.

There was also controversy over the new Domestic Violence Protection Law, with MPs in sharp disputes over the issue of domestic sexual abuse. An open debate over sport in Bahrain saw many calls by deputies for greater investment and support for Bahraini sportsmen and women.

Implementation of deputies’ proposals

MPs have agreed on a proposal for obligating the Government to strict timescales for implementing private members bills put forward by individual MPs and agreed on by Parliament and the Government. Many MPs stood up and criticized the Government for agreeing to certain proposals and then failing to implement them.

Shaikh Majid al-Majid said that his Legal Committee had studied 319 (out of 496) unimplemented proposals, some going back to 2004-07. Al-Majid said: The Government should announce that it won’t cooperate with the legislative branch, rather than just neglecting the Assembly”.

The Minister for Parliament challenged the proposal, saying that it infringed on the work of Government. Predictably, this drew an angry response from many MPs who pointed out that many of these proposals came directly from constituents and represented popular demands.

Protecting families against domestic violence

Parliament has approved amendments to the penal code for a new Domestic Violence Protection Law. This included measures protecting children below the age of seven and the mentally-handicapped. Offenders could expect punishments of more than three months in prison or upwards of a 100 BD fine.

However, 21 MPs rejected a clause stipulating punishments for acts “leading to sexual abuse or harm” and criminalizing sexual abuse within marriage.

Shia cleric Shaikh Majid al-Asfour represented the outspoken voice of opposition to the sexual abuse clause, arguing that: “sex is an intimate issue between husband and wife, we can’t get into it. No-one has the right to question it, as sometimes it involves rough sex.”

A second Shia cleric, Shaikh Majid al-Majid, claimed the article contravened Sharia law. He said: “A wife can’t sleep without asking her husband if he wants sex and a husband, under Sharia law, has to give his wife proper sex a night every four days… Punishing a wife or husband for practicing their sexual rights in the manner they want is unacceptable and constitutes interference in Sharia law obligations.” Al-Majid added: “The issue of sexual harm coming from transmitting STDs is not an issue in Sharia law, because it could be lack of awareness or improper protection between husband or wife.”

The Women and Children Committee chairwoman Dr Jameela al-Sammak strongly challenged these arguments, saying that sexual abuse in marriage should be punishable since both partners should consent to sex: “Sex is something practiced by two people who have to be on the same level of acceptance for it not to constitute harm or abuse,” she said. “Sexual harm could come from a husband or wife transferring STDs and that should be punishable because it has huge negatives on human health.”

The Social Development Minister has pledged to lobby the Shura Council to retain the domestic sexual abuse clause in the new law.

Sports and the youth in Bahrain

During an open parliamentary debate about the status of sports in Bahrain, many MPs criticized the lack of investment and official level interest. Isa al-Kooheji questioned why Bahrain had never succeeded in winning the Gulf Cup for football, noting the lack of any kind of planning or strategy for upgrading the status of sports in Bahrain.

Adel al-Asoumi was widely quoted in the press the next day claiming that Bahrain’s investment in sport was less than the value of “Ronaldo’s shorts”.

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