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Democracy In Kuwait Not For Women

Remember the 1990 Gulf War? It was fought because Iraq invaded Kuwait and the West wanted a return to democracy. Yesterday, the Kuwaiti parliament killed democracy and again denied women the right to vote. John Howard reports.

Kuwaiti newspapers are slamming the emirate's all-male parliament for again rejecting the vote for women, calling it a blow against democracy.

Talal al-Arab, a commentator in a leading Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Qabas, said that the "freedom of half of Kuwait's population has been buried in the name of democracy."

" To those who fought and succeeded in killing the rights of one half of our society, we say: 'Congratulations on this fantastic victory and let us hope for more backwardness in the name of democracy,'" Arab said.

Oil-rich Kuwait is the only Gulf Arab monarchy to have an elected parliament.

Islamists and tribal MP's bore the brunt of the criticism in rejecting a bill by 32 votes to 30 to grant women the right to vote and to stand for office in parliamentary elections from 2003.

Muslim fundamentalists argued the vote for women would run against Islamic precepts.

The Arab Times, meanwhile, accused MP's of voting with religious groups to secure electoral favour and personal gain.

The Kuwaiti parliament is to soon discuss a series of laws opening Kuwait to direct foreign investment as well as foreign share ownership and encouraging the role of the private sector as part of economic reforms.

The international community is likely to raise its eyebrows over Kuwait's wish to be involved with foreign investment and the global economy while, in the name of democracy, deliberately denying half its population the right to vote.

The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, favours giving women the vote but he is also being challenged because he issued dozens of decrees between the dissolution of parliament in May and elections in July. MP's charge the decrees were unconstitutional.

The government can re-submit the draft law for women to vote within the next three parliamentary terms, but unless there is international pressure that is unlikely to happen.

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