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The ladies are in the house
Four Kuwaiti women have won seats in the nation’s parliament. It’s an historic win for women.
May 17, 2009 2:19 by Dana El Baltaji
Four years after women won the right to vote and contest elections in Kuwait, four women have been elected into the nation’s parliament, a regional first. The women, Massuma Al Mubarak – who is also the nation’s first female minister – Aseel Al Awadhi, Rola Dashti and Salwa Al Fassar, are among liberals and Shi’ites who weakened Sunni Islamist representation in the 50-seat assembly.
There were a total of 210 candidates, including 16 women. In spite of Kuwait’s political and economy instability, voter turnouts for the elections were low, with less than 60 percent of eligible voters turning out for this year. Interestingly, less than 50 percent of the nation’s women voted.
In spite of the low numbers, however, women have made Kuwaiti and GCC history by being voted into parliament. Their victory is seen as an important step toward integrating women into daily social and political arenas, and away from traditionally held notions of segregation.
Last month, Kuwait’s Islamist Salafi movement called a boycott of female candidates, and declared that public offices are reserved only for men, citing the group’s interpretations of Prophet Mohammed’s teachings.
Fuhaid Al Hailam, of the Islamic Salafi Alliance politburo, announced that voting for women is a sin. “What is prohibited as an aim is also prohibited as a means,” he told Al Arabiya. “Voting for women is the means of their access to parliamentary membership, thus it is prohibited.”
The fatwa sparked outrage among female candidates, calling it politically motivated.