Kuwait: Amendment to state’s health law grants critical rights to mothers

Kuwait City: During Wednesday’s session, the National Assembly agreed to change a governmental decree to permit women to sign off on medical procedures for their children and family.

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After the meeting, Dr. Basil Al Sabah, Minister of Health, said “the National Assembly approved to amend the state’s health law to include the guardian or the mother.”

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The decision to amend the decree will now be transferred to the cabinet of ministers for their final approval. The governmental decree was passed by the health committee before it was presented to the floor of the National Assembly.

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According to the governmental decree put forth by the Ministry of Health, women do not have legal right to sign off on medical documents for their children. The decree is known as the ‘health guardianship’, although article 3 of law 210 (2015) states that the guardian or caretaker of a child, with the legal proof, has the right to obtain legal documents and identification files in order to be able to carry out procedures for the child.

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Contradiction

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“I believe that out of all the existing laws that discriminate against women, this law in particular is least to say humiliating and extremely frustrating to women and contradictory in every way possible,” Nour Al Mukhled, Project Manager at Abolish 153, told Gulf News. “It contradicts the Kuwaiti constitution and covenants that Kuwait has ratified such as the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).”

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Abolish 153 is a Kuwaiti based non-profit organization working towards abolishing article 153 from Kuwait’s penal code, which effectively gives men regulatory, judicial and executive power over their female kin in blatant disregard of the constitution, international agreements on human and women’s rights and even the Islamic Sharia.

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Al Mukhled went on to explain, “it is also ironic given that today, many women are in leadership and decision making positions, having the power and ability to make decisions effecting the country as a whole and yet, when it comes to their own children’s health and wellbeing, they are deprived from the right to making a decision.”

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According to Article 29 of the constitution, ‘all people are equal in human dignity and in public rights and duties before the law, without distinction to race, origin, language, or religion.’

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Back in July, MP Yousef Al Fadalah pointed out that the National Assembly has yet to discuss the ‘health guardianship’ decree although he put it forth back in 2018.

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In January 2020, the health committee voted against changing the governmental decree, therefore restricting women from signing off on documents without the approval of a male guardian. The head of the committee Saadoun Hammad, clarified that the committee is unable to approve the amendment because they believe it contends the personal status law. Hammad went on to say that they need to study the November 2018 law and its legality to ensure that it does not contradict points made in the personal status law in regards to guardianship.

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The decision was met with discontent by the Kuwaiti public as many pointed out that women can become ministers and MPs yet they can not sign off medical documents for the children.

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“Despite the fact that Kuwait was the first in the Gulf to appoint a female minister, a female chancellor and a female ambassador, Kuwaiti women still face obstacles in getting their full rights and they still struggle from the improvised laws and policies that are being implemented by ministries and other governmental administrations,” Al Mukhled said.

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Female prosecutors

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Last month, a historic win for women’s rights occurred, when the public prosecution appointed eight female prosecutors to the position of judges.

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Currently, there is only one female MP and two female ministers. Women are able to run for parliament and vote as they were granted voting rights back in 2005. The upcoming National Assembly elections are set to take place in November.

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“With elections around the corner, I urge women to take into account the laws and policies that have been carried out and the people behind this movement to help shape and make our decisions independently. We must realize that there are people who benefit from our non-participation, and it is on us to push harder and not allow them to,” Al Mukhled pointed out.

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