On 1 December, Citizens for Bahrain issued a statement criticizing the parliamentary Women and Children’s Committee recommendation for rejecting full implementation of CEDAW, the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Ahead of the crucial parliamentary vote on Tuesday 15 December, several other major Bahraini entities have criticized the Committee’s conclusions and have called on MPs to approve the Convention in full.

The Supreme Council for Women stressed the importance of ratifying this Convention, noting the central role of women in society and the importance of empowering Bahraini women in all aspects of their lives.

The Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also stressed the importance of CEDAW. The Ministry said that it was a mistake to believe that the Convention conflicted with Islamic Law. It said that “equality between men and women as a general principle is clearly enshrined in Islamic Shari’ah, which looks upon men and women as together being the basis for life in society”.

This is fully in line with previous statements from the Bahrain Government which stated that the “articles of the Convention relevant to family life were in harmony with Islamic Shari’ah”. In early 2014 the Cabinet stressed the need for moving ahead with ratification of the Convention and “erasing incorrect understandings of Islamic Shari’ah” in the context of Bahrain’s continuing efforts to “demonstrate the civilized face of the Islamic faith… which exalts the position of women and amongst its guarantees, stipulates the concept of a balanced equality between men and women”.

The Bahrain Women’s Union has also stressed the importance of removing unnecessary reservations towards full implementation of CEDAW. All these bodies stressed the strong advocacy of women’s equal role in Bahrain’s 2001 Constitution.

Implementation of CEDAW has been a central issue during the periodic reviews of Bahrain’s human rights record.

As discussed in detail in Citizens for Bahrain’s previous report, the Women’s Committee unanimously rejected the Convention on several points, notably women’s right to freedom of travel and the freedom of choice for the place they want to live; as well as the equal rights of men and women with regard to marriage and the custody of children.

According to parliamentary procedure, the specialized committees review draft laws and then pass on their conclusions to the full Parliament, which usually can vote for or against the committee’s recommendations – or send the measures back to the specialized committee for further consideration. As a result, on Tuesday’s vote, MPs are perfectly entitled to vote in favour of CEDAW and against the Women’s Committee’s recommendations.

Citizens for Bahrain strongly advises MPs to heed widespread calls and vote in favour of enshrining the rights of women in Bahrain. MPs should not go against the Constitution in refusing to bring Bahrain in to line with international standards on women’s equality.

Bahrain has always been ahead of the rest of the region for women’s education, women’s employment and empowering women in politics, society and business. Bahrain should not turn its back on these achievements by voting against this central piece of legislation.

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