Achievements hailed as nation looks forward to more successes

By: Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief Published: Gulf News

8 March 2015

Bahrain Woman

Manama: Bahrain has paid rich tribute to its women, openly recognising their social, political and economic impact and calling for greater empowerment to elevate their status higher.

The National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) congratulated Bahrain women and said in a statement that it appreciated their crucial role in building their families and society, and enhancing the kingdom’s development and progress, in partnership with their male compatriots.

The Shura Council, the second chamber of the bicameral parliament, congratulated women on the International Women’s Day and said it “appreciated the huge efforts of Bahraini women in all positions and areas and their outstanding role in promoting national development in all fields.”

The Shura said that it would always support women in their endeavours and their contributions to the nation-building process.

Several women’s societies said that while they appreciate the progress in elevating the status of women in the country, they were looking for the full elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

The main call is to ensure that Bahraini women married to non-Bahrainis could pass on their nationality to their children, they said.

According to Hala Al Ansari, the secretary general of the Supreme Council for Women, the official body founded in 2001 to empower women politically, socially and economically, said that the centre to support women received 385 requests last year to help children born to Bahraini mothers and foreign fathers acquire the Bahraini nationality.

Under the Bahraini law, only fathers are allowed to pass on their nationality to their children.

The centre has been providing free legal advice and matrimonial consultations to women seeking assistance, she added.

Some societies in statements issued on the International Women’s Day insisted on pushing for the enactment of a personal status law for Jaafari (Shiite) women despite the stiff resistance from Jaafari religious leaders who have repeatedly refused to endorse or even discuss a draft law that governs personal status and family matters such as marriage, divorce and custody.

According to senior Shiite leaders in Bahrain, the parliament is not qualified to debate or decide on family matters rooted in religious jurisprudence. Only top Shiite references, such as Iraq-based Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, can legislate on such matters and his decisions must not be altered or amended by any authority in Bahrain, they said.

Their stance meant that only Sunni women were able to secure their rights through a formal legislation when the parliament in May 2009 endorsed the much-awaited family law to improve the legal status of women.

The government in early 2009 submitted a draft for both Sunnis and Shiites to the parliament, but eventually withdrew it after the Shiite leaders opposed it vehemently. The government in April reintroduced only the Sunni section of the draft.

Some activists, dismayed by the poor performance of women in parliamentary and municipal elections, on Sunday called for the introduction of a quota system that will help ensure a greater presence in the elected chambers and councils.

Similar calls issued ahead of each of the quadrennial elections since 2002 have been turned down as a violation of the constitution that stipulates the equality of all citizens regardless of their gender.

Bahrain celebrates Bahraini Women’s Day on December 1 under a different theme every year.

Bahraini Women’s Day 2015 will be held under the theme “Women in the financial and banking sector” to highlight women’s presence in the pivotal sector for about 50 years, the Supreme Council for Women said in January.

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