Under the Personal Status Act (1984), the legal age of marriage in Kuwait is 15 years for women and 17 years for men. However, according to the U.S. Department of State, girls continue to marry below the legal age in some tribal groups, and Kuwaiti Government data show that the bride was under the age of 15 in the case of 51 marriage contracts concluded in 2011. In terms of early marriage, the figures indicate that 55 of girls ages 15-19 were married, divorced or widowed.
Kuwaiti women face discrimination in regard to parental authority. Sharia law views fathers as the natural guardians of children, whereas mothers are seen as the physical, but not legal, custodians. This conception of guardianship is codified under Articles 110 of the Civil Code and 209 of the Personal Status Act, under which mothers can serve as legal guardians only when authorized through a court decision. Thus, mothers continue to be prevented from taking decisions and representing their children before official bodies, in particular in regard to registering their children in schools.
In the event of divorce, Article 189 of the Personal Status Act gives mothers the right to physical custody of young children. Under Sunni family law, mothers are given custody of sons until they reach the age of 15 years and of daughters until they marry. But under Shiite family law, women are only granted custody of girls up until the age of seven, and boys to the age of two.Under Article 199, a father is legally obliged to provide financial support to a mother with custody of his child until the boy concerned reaches the age of seven or the girl concerned reaches the age of nine, but there are no penalties in place in the event that he fails to do so. Divorced women who choose to remarry during this period lose their custody rights. In addition, fathers gain custody of children of non-Muslim women who choose not to convert.
Inheritance is governed by the Personal Status Act. Articles 299 and 300 do not provide for equal inheritance shares for sons compared to daughters and wives compared to husbands.Sharia law provides for detailed and complex calculations of these shares. Women may inherit from their fathers, mothers, husbands or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members. However, their share is generally smaller than that to which men are entitled, and in general, female heirs are entitled to inherit half that of male heirs.  Under Sunni family law, women are able to inherit physical property, whereas under Shiite family law, women can only inherit the value of that property. However, in general, Shia inheritance regulations in Kuwait are said to be more egalitarian to women compared to Sunni regulations. It is not clear whether women’s inheritance rights are respected in practice. A non-Muslim woman who chooses not to convert cannot inherit her husband’s property unless specified as a beneficiary in his will.
Under the Personal Status Act (1984), family matters are governed by Sharia law and handled within the state-run Sharia court system in which the testimony of a man equals that of two women.Sunni and Shiite Muslims have recourse to courts that adhere to their respective schools of Islam. For the most part, marriage continues to be an arrangement between families, although marriages cannot be concluded without the consent of both spouses.According to Sunni family law, women cannot freely choose their husbands; they must obtain prior approval from their families or guardians. This is not the case for Shiite women, who can marry without their guardian’s consent once they have reached the age of maturity (25).The law forbids marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men. Sexual relations outside of marriage are illegal for women and men.
Men have the right to repudiate their wives, i.e. divorce them unilaterally. Women in Kuwait have the right to seek a divorce under certain circumstances, e.g. if the husband has been imprisoned or has deserted her (Article 136 of the Personal Status Act), or if she has been so injured by her husband’s words or deeds “as to be unable to continue associating among their mutual peers” (Article 126 of the Personal Status Act).In the latter case (domestic violence), reportedly, a woman must prove the injury before a court with witnesses. In cases where a husband has divorced his wife unilaterally, she is entitled to financial compensation. Moreover, the Sharia practice of khula is practiced in Kuwait, according to which a woman can divorce her husband relatively quickly by relinquishing to her husband’s assets. In Kuwait, which has the highest total divorce rate among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, divorce and remarriage have become easier and carry less of a social stigma than in past decades.
 ECOSOC (2003) p. 147; CEDAW (2010) p. 28  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 21  OECD (2014), Gender, Institutions and Development Database, http://stats.oecd.org  Uhlman (2004)  CEDAW (2011) p. 12; Kuwait Society for Human Rights (2011) p. 8  Personal Status Act (Law no. 51/1984), Article 189; CEDAW (2010) p. 28  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 231  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 231  Personal Status Act (Law no. 51/1984), Article 199; CEDAW (2003) p. 81  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 243  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 231  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 19  Personal Status Act (Law no. 51/1984), Articles 299 & 300  UN-HABITAT (2005) p. 11  UN-HABITAT (2005) p. 11  UN-HABITAT (2005) p. 11; Al-Mughni (2010) p. 234  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 230  Krause (2009) p. 12  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 19  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 227; CEDAW (2010) p. 27; U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 19  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 227  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 232; CEDAW (2010) p. 27  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 232  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 232  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 6  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 228  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 231  CEDAW (2010) p. 28; CEDAW (2003) p. 21-22; Al-Mughni (2010) p. 231-232  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 18  CEDAW (2010) p.28; Al-Mughni (2010) pp. 231-232  US State Department (2014)  Westall (2012)
Article 88 of the Personal Status Act (1984) states that a wife may not be coerced into obedience, but the law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence. In practice, general laws against assault have been applied to domestic violence cases; however, those convicted of spousal abuse reportedly tend not to face severe penalties. A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint with police, but in practice, perpetrators are rarely arrested, and the crime is treated as more of a social rather than a criminal problem. The U.S. Department of State noted police inaction and discrimination against non-citizen women who reported domestic violence, as well as bribes paid by men to authorities to avoid arrest.The police and courts generally try to resolve family disputes informally, and no shelters, hotlines, or other support services are available to victims.The only women’s shelter in Kuwait is for domestic workers, not for victims of intimate partner violence.In addition, Human Rights Watch reported in 2012 that in cases of alleged domestic violence or marital rape, under Kuwaiti regulations, courts provide lawyers to the accused but not to the victims.
Another possibility for married victims of domestic violence is to seek divorce. A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from abuse under Article 126 of the Personal Status Act, but the law does not provide a clear legal standard on what constitutes injury.Moreover, a woman must prove the abuse before a court with witnesses.
Lack of data makes it difficult to estimate the prevalence of violence against women in Kuwait: no statistics are collected either by the government or NGOs, and few women report cases of domestic violence out of fear or shame.
Rape is a criminal offence in Kuwait under Article 186 of the Penal Code, but spousal rape is not recognised.In addition, perpetrators can escape prosecution by marrying their victim. Rape is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty, which has been applied to rape convicts on occasion. Under Article 187 of the Penal Code, sexual relations with a female who is under 15 years of age or unable to exercise her willpower for any other reason is punishable by life imprisonment, even if no coercion, threats, or deception were used. The penalty is death if the perpetrator was an ascendant of the victim, entrusted with guardianship over her, or a servant in her household.
Non-citizen women, especially domestic workers, are reportedly particularly vulnerable to sexual assault in Kuwait, including by their employers. Those who fall pregnant due to rape have been imprisoned for sexual relations outside of wedlock.According to the U.S. Department of State, while rape convicts have sometimes faced severe penalties, overall, rape laws are not effectively enforced, especially in cases of non-citizen women raped by their employers. There have also been reports of sexual assault by police officers, usually against non-national women. According to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch, transgender women—those who are born male but identify as female—have also faced persistent police abuse, sometimes sexual in nature. The police may arrest and detain them under a 2007 law against “imitating the opposite sex.”
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not recognised as a specific crime, even though it has been characterized by human rights groups as a widespread and underreported problem, and is of particular concern with regards to domestic workers. However, the “encroachment on honour,” encompassing a broad array of forms of sexual harassment and acts against women, is punishable with fines and prison sentences—which have been applied in practice. Reportedly, female police officers have been deployed to shopping malls and other public spaces to combat sexual harassment.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is reportedly not practised in Kuwait. The legal situation in regard to FGM is unclear.
Trafficking in persons is illegal in Kuwait, under the Penal Code and a new anti-trafficking law passed in March 2013.However, Kuwait was, for the seventh year in a row designated in the worst level (“Tier Three”) in the U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report for failing to demonstrate significant effort in prosecuting and convicting trafficking offenders under existing laws. Labour trafficking is a problem with regards to domestic workers (mainly women), a large number of who enter the country each year legally, but may subsequently be subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude by their employers. They are at particular risk of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their employees, and are not protected by employment legislation.In addition, the Kuwaiti government has thus far appeared reluctant to prosecute Kuwaiti citizens found to have abused their domestic workers. The Kuwait Union of Domestic Labour Offices provides some limited services to domestic workers, including legal support, and there is also a shelter in operation. However, it is far more common for those who flee employers to seek shelter in their respective embassies, especially because many are unaware about the existence of the state shelter.Although prostitution is criminalised, there are limited reports of forced prostitution in Kuwait, particularly for the case of runaway domestics who fall prey to criminals who exploit their illegal status.
Incidents of so-called “honour killings” do occur in Kuwait. Under Article 153 of the Penal Code, honour killing is criminalised, but with significantly lower penalties than would otherwise be the case for murder. If the (male) perpetrator kills his daughter, wife, sister or mother in a fit of rage, having discovered that she had committed an act of zina (unlawful sexual relations), the maximum penalty is three years’ imprisonment or a fine. By contrast, murder is otherwise punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Under Law No. 25 of 1981, abortion is only legal within the first four months of pregnancy in cases of foetal impairment or if the mother’s life or health is in danger. In all cases, the procedure requires the consent of the woman’s husband or male guardian, as well as the approval of a medical committee composed of three specialists, and must be performed in a state hospital. Under Article 159 of the Penal Code, a woman may be punished for having an illegal abortion with up to five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. Article 174 stipulates that a person who induces an illegal abortion—either with or without the pregnant women’s consent—is liable to a prison sentence of up to ten years or, in the case of a medical practitioner, up to 15 years, to which a fine may be added. Exceptions are made for those who induce an abortion in the sincere belief that it is essential to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.
Women in Kuwait have the right to obtain information about, and access contraception, which is provided through government health clinics.The Government of Kuwait, which provides incentives for childbearing among Kuwaiti nationals, does not provide family planning programmes, but contraceptives are available without prescription.According to a 2010 UNFPA report, 52% of married women reported using some form of contraception.
 CEDAW (2003) p. 21  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 18  ECOSOC (2003) p. 147; Al-Mughni (2010) p. 233  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 18; Kuwait Society for Human Rights (2011) p. 2  Human Rights Watch (2012a)  Personal Status Act (Law no. 51/1984), Article 126  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 18  Al-Mughni (2010) p.233  CEDAW (2003) p. 25-26; Penal Code (Law no. 16/1960)  ECOSOC (2003) p. 146-7  Selfscholar (2012)  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 17; Daily News Egypt (2013)  CEDAW (2003) p. 25-26  Freedom House (2013); U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 17-18  International Human Rights Clinic (2013) p. 34  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 17-18  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 3  Human Rights Watch (2012b)  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 237; U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 19  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 19  ECOSOC (2003) p. 146; U.S. Department of State (2013b)  U.S. Department of State (2013b)  Fahim (2010); Human Rights Watch (2011); U.S. Department of State (2013b); International Human Rights Clinic (2013) p. 30-36  Amnesty International (2010) p. 202; ECOSOC (2003) p. 147; Human Rights Watch (2011); International Human Rights Clinic (2013) p. 30-36  U.S. Department of State (2013b)  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 233  Fahim (2010); U.S. Department of State (2013b)  U.S. Department of State (2013b)  ECOSOC (2003) p. 147; Al-Mughni (2010) p. 227; U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 18  ECOSOC (2003) p. 147; Al-Mughni (2010) p. 227; Penal Code, Article 153  Penal Code (Law no. 16/1960), Article 149  UNDP (2007); UN (n.d.) p. 91  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 242  CEDAW (2003) p. 63  CEDAW (2003) p. 64  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 241  UN (n.d.) p. 91  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 19  UNFPA (2010) p. 96
The male/female sex ratio at birth is 1.05 while for the working age population of 15-64 is 1.06.Based on this evidence, it appears that Kuwait is a country of low concern in relation to missing women and the situation is improving.
UNICEF offers data from 2008 to 2012 on education. There is a slight gender gap in pre-primary education in the detriment of males. A bigger gender gap, also in detriment of boys, is documented in primary education. The gap continues to grow in secondary education.
Immunization data provided by UNICEF and the World Bank’s Development Indicators Database is not disaggregated by sex.
Malnutrition appears to have affected girls and boys equally, based on 2012 data.
 CIA (n.d.)  UNICEF (2013)  UNICEF (2013); World Bank (n.d.) Development Indicators Database  World Bank (n.d.) Development Indicators Database  Understanding Children’s Work (n.d.)  UNICEF (2013)
Women in Kuwait have the full legal right to own and manage land under the Civil Code, which does not discriminate by sex with regards to a person’s legal capacity to own property and carry out commercial transactions.No data was found regarding women’s access to and ownership of land.
Women have the full legal right to own and manage non-land assets including property, income, and other assets.A 2011 law decreed that Kuwaiti women who are divorced, widowed, married to noncitizens, or over the age of 40 and single are now entitled to the same interest free housing loans that had previously only been accessible to Kuwaiti men. Still, usually only heads of households are eligible for government welfare benefits. In Kuwait, only widows or divorcees can be defined as heads of household, excluding, for example, women married to unemployed men.
The law allows women over 21 years of age to have access to financial services, including bank loans and enter into financial contracts, without permission from their male guardian. A wife’s financial assets remain separate from those of her husband after marriage. 92.7% men compared to 79.6% of women hold a bank account at a formal financial institution.
The UNDP Kuwait office reports that, despite women previously being concentrated in the public sector, there are now a growing number of women entrepreneurs who are transforming the image of Kuwaiti women into that of successful entrepreneurs.
 Al-Mughni (2010) p. 234; CEDAW (2010) p. 27; CEDAW (2003) p. 78  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 234; CEDAW (2010) p. 27; CEDAW (2003) p. 78  World Bank (2013) p. 79  World Bank (2013) p. 80  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 234; CEDAW (2003) p. 80  CEDAW (2003) p. 80  World Bank (2011)  UNDP Kuwait (2010)
There are no legal restrictions on women’s freedom of access to public space in Kuwait.In October 2009, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 1962 law requiring married women to obtain their husband’s permission in order to apply for a passport was unconstitutional. However, reportedly a husband may still obtain a court-ordered travel ban on his wife to prevent her from leaving the country, and social norms dictate that women obtain permission from their family or husband before going out at night or travelling abroad. It is also considered socially unacceptable for an unmarried woman (or an unmarried man) to live alone.
Non-national women are often subject to arbitrary arrest and deportation,  and female domestics are reportedly often prevented from socialising with friends or leaving their workplace. Segregation by gender is mandated in secondary and tertiary education, but public universities enforced this law more rigorously than private ones. Married female students may only register in evening schools and have been prevented from attending day schools by regulations of the Ministry of Education.
There are reports that freedom of expression is at times not respected in Kuwait, and there are also some restrictions in place on freedom of association and assembly. This limits the autonomy and activities of NGOs, including those working on women’s rights, which face considerable logistical obstacles to registration, as well as scrutiny of their operations.That said, Kuwaiti women’s long exclusion from formal political life, the country has had an active women’s movement, campaigning for women’s economic and political rights, and their access to educational and cultural opportunities.Women’s rights activists were able to mount large-scale demonstrations in 2005 in support of women’s voting rights. Two months following these protests, the parliament agreed to reform the electoral law in order to grant women the vote.
Two women’s rights organisations—the Kuwait Federation of Women’s Association and the Women’s Cultural and Social Society—are accredited with the Government as representatives of Kuwaiti women and permitted to hold events that continue to advocate against the political exclusion of women. According to a 2009 report, the Federation is tightly regulated by the Government and is the only group permitted to represent Kuwaiti women internationally.Reports suggest there has been in-fighting between women’s groups, as some elite women have sought to side-line the work and formation of broader-based women’s organisations.
There are no quotas for women in political office. Women gained the right to vote and stand for election in Kuwait in 2005. Since then, women voters have sometimes turned out to vote at higher rates than their male counterparts.However, they failed to win seats in the 2006 and 2008 elections. It was only in 2009 that the first women—four out of the 20 women who ran for office—were elected to the 50-member National Assembly. In the February, 2012 elections, tribal leaders excluded women from tribal primaries, and no women were elected to the Assembly. However, three women won seats in the December 2012 elections. In the most recent elections of July 2013, there were eight female compared to 321 male candidates, and two women were elected, amounting to a parliamentary share of 4%. Some opposition figures boycotted the election; still, many participated. Since cabinet members, who are appointed by the Emir, also enjoy voting rights in Kuwait’s national legislature, if one considers the two female ministers, women then comprise four of 65-members of the national legislature, amounting to a share of 6.2%.
The first women serving in ministerial positions in Kuwait were appointed in 2005. Kuwait has had several female ambassadors. In 2011, a judge of the Supreme Court clarified that women may be appointed as judges and public prosecutors, overturning a 2010 ruling by a lower court against this possibility. But, as of 2012, there were no women judges. In January 2013, for the first time, Kuwait began accepting female applicants to become public prosecutors. However, the Government delayed the appointment of 62 prosecutors, including 22 females, reportedly because it sought religious fatwas permitting women to work in this field.
Under the 2010 Labour Act, women in Kuwait are protected from employment discrimination on the basis of gender, including with regards to pay under Article 26. Still, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), women earn 66% of the pay for equal work in Kuwait.Moreover, a husband can prohibit his wife from working if he deems that work would negatively affect the family’s interests.
According to the 2011 NGO Shadow Report to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the Kuwait Society for Human Rights, the Government, including in its official reports and school curricula, continues to extol the role of women as wives and mothers, rather than as equal participants in the public sector.With the exception of a few professions, women are legally forbidden from working at night, as well as from working in the industrial sector, or working in occupations deemed hazardous to their health.However, they have been able to serve in the army since 1999 and in the police force since 2009.
Pregnant women in Kuwait are entitled to 100% pay for 70 days of maternity leave, paid by the employer, under Article 24 of the 2010 Labour Act. The law provides that they must be given an equivalent position when they return from maternity leave. Nursing women are given two hours break time during official working hours under Article 25.
The labour force participation rate in 2011 was 44.2% for citizen women and 71.6% for non-national women, compared to 63.1% for citizen men and 95.5% for non-national men. Women (both national and non-national) comprised 14.5% of legislators, senior officials, and managers in 2011.The growth of women’s participation in the labour market in Kuwait reportedly resulted from the occupation of the country by Iraq in 1990-1991, when thousands of Kuwaiti women took on important responsibilities: running hospitals to compensate for the lack of trained medical staff, or risking their lives by engaging in smuggling food, money, and weapons across military Iraqi checkpoints.
Slightly more than half of public-sector employees are female, but only 40 of 518 executive posts were occupied by women in 2012. Moreover, according to the World Bank, the state provides public sector employees with “extremely generous” family subsidies, but only to husbands. Women are excluded from these subsidies even if only the wife works in the public sector.
As for education, while 72% of college graduates in Kuwait were female in 2012, educated women have claimed that the conservative nature of society restricts their career opportunities, although they have seen limited improvements. Moreover, according to the World Bank, the reverse gender gap in education may be explained in part by gender gaps in wages, the provision of state subsidies, and the age of retirement (earlier for women than men). These increase the premium of higher education for women compared to men. Young men have an incentive to enter the system with secondary or vocational qualifications only and rely on seniority for growth in pay over time; whereas the usual gender gap in pay and subsidies deters women without tertiary degrees from starting at low-paid, entry-level jobs, especially as they might be expected to retire before reaching more senior-level posts.
According to Al-Mughni, women’s rights issues are discussed in the media in Kuwait, with a wide range of liberal and conservative views represented. However, according to the U.S. Department of State, discussions of the role of women in society and sexual problems are sometimes self-censored by the media. In October 2012, the Ministry of Information filed a lawsuit against talk show host Yusra Mohammed, whose show addresses the problems of violence against women in Arab societies, sex tourism, and prostitution rings. The Ministry called an episode on child prostitution “an affront to decency.” Mohammed was acquitted by the Court of First Instance.
Children derive citizenship solely from the father. Women may only confer citizenship to children born to non-Kuwaiti fathers in limited circumstances, for example, if the father is unknown. Those who are divorced or widowed from a non-national man may petition for Kuwaiti citizenship to be conferred on their children.
 Al-Mughni (2010) p.229  Amnesty International (2010) p.202; World Bank (2013) p. 87  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 20  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 230  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 242  Al-Sabah (2013) p. 85  Fahim (2010); Human Rights Watch (2011) p. 55-6  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 20  Kuwait Society for Human Rights (2011) p. 10  Amnesty International (2010) pp. 201-202; Freedom House (2013)  Al-Mughni (2010) pp. 225, 240  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 223  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 238  Krause (2009) p. 10  Rousseau (2013)  Krause (2009) p. 16  Al-Sabah (2013) p. 220; Krause (2009) p. 19-20  UNICEF (2007) p. 78; CEDAW (2010) pp. 16, 19  Rousseau (2013); U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 15  Amnesty International (2010) p.201; Al-Mughni (2010) p. 224  BBC (2012); U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 15  Rousseau (2013); U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 15; Freedom House (2013)  Inter-Parliamentary Union (2013)  Krause (2009) p. 10  World Bank (2013) p. 86  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 5  Al-Fuzai (2013)  ILO (2009); CEDAW (2010) p. 15; Labour Law No. 6/2010  World Economic Forum (2013) p. 246  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 230  Kuwait Society for Human Rights (2011) p. 6-7  ECOSOC (2003) p. 147; Al-Mughni (2010) p. 236  Sharaf (n.d.); Arabic News.com (1999)  Labour Law No. 6/2010  Calculated based on data from Central Statistical Bureau (2011b) p. 97  Calculated based on data from Central Statistical Bureau (2011b) p. 102  Rousseau (2013)  Central Statistical Bureau (2013) p. 13  Central Statistical Bureau (2013) p. 23  Wolrd Bank (2013) p. 80, 102  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 20  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 20  World Bank (2013) p. 102-3  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 239  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 7  Abdullah (2012)  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 8  Al-Mughni (2010) p. 226; CEDAW (2010) p. 20  U.S. Department of State (2013) p. 13, 20
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