Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Movement toward democracy in Kuwait

Largely unnoticed last week, the New York Times reported that the Kuwaiti Parliament unexpectedly voted to grant women full political rights over the objection of the Islamists in Parliament. According to the Times:

"The State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, welcomed the new legislation, calling it "an important step forward for the women of Kuwait and for the nation as a whole."

The vote climaxed an extraordinary turn of events, just two weeks after the Parliament had thwarted a measure allowing women to take part in city council elections."

Why did this happen? According to the Times:

"The prime minister, Sheik Sabah al-Jaber al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s ruling family, has been under growing pressure to allow women’s suffrage and is believed to have forced the measure through ahead of a planned trip to Washington. He is widely expected to appoint a woman as minister of health in coming weeks."

P.S. Sorry, but no active link to the story because it’s archived.

Discussions - 2 Comments

There has been a similar dynamic surrounding women’s rights/family law/"honor" killings related issues in Morocco and Jordan over the past few years as well.

Like Kuwait, those countries are governed by relatively (for the Arab world) liberal-minded and even enlightened monarchs. Kuwait City, for instance, or so I am told, has actual Christian churches with their own buildings, something that is unheard of just over the border in Saudi Arabia.

In Jordan, King Abdullah has used his considerable political leverage to prevent Islamists in parliament from creating a situation where there is basically no penalty for so-called "honor" killings of women by their families, and the king of Morocco put through a liberalizing revision of his country’s family law despite Islamist complaints.

Kuwait, Jordan, and Morocco are all countries where the elites at least seem to want not to be embarrassed in the eye s of civilized opinion, and are generally susceptible to outside pressure on these issues. The inner dynamics of Saudi Arabia, sadly, don’t seem to offer such promising points of leverage, given the Saudi regime’s twisted involvement with Salafist/Wahhabist elements of the worst sort.

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