7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Women's rights in the spotlight...

BAHRAINI women have been facing new types of violence and discrimination since the unrest broke out in 2011, according to a key report compiled by a 14 non-government organisations (NGOs).

The risk of human trafficking has also increased with 16 cases reported among Arabs and 92 among non-Arabs registered between 2007 and last year.

The shadow report, compiled by the Bahrain Women's Union (BWU) in co-operation with other NGOs, will be discussed during the 57th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva next Tuesday.

Bahrain's women rights record will be discussed before a high-level committee which is expected to highlight achievements, issues and challenges.

"Discrimination still exists between men and women in the field of political participation and decision-making positions and also in granting citizenship to their children from a foreign spouse," says the report.

The report refers to the hegemony of political societies and the failure to back female candidates

"They do not sponsor women candidates, but only see women as voters," it says.

The report recommends a 30 per cent quota for women in parliament to enhance their role in political life.

It also highlights the plight of victims of domestic violence, who are still not covered by any legislation, adding that "many victims do not approach (government) centres and opt for silence to protect the family and to avoid divorce and social stigma".

Referring to the rights of domestic workers, the NGOs say employers deprive them of weekend holidays, withhold their passports, sometimes fail to pay their salaries and commit acts of sexual or physical abuse.

"There have been cases where domestic workers who flee their employers due to abuse, are found to be exploited as sex workers or trafficked as sex slaves," says the report.

The rampant practice of "free visas" among migrant workers is also documented, adding such illegal practices encourage the exploitation of domestic workers in prostitution networks.

The Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) says in the report that since its creation in 2005 it has housed more than 1,200 migrant female workers (mainly domestic workers) at its shelter, adding they provided shelter to 124 women in 2012.

The BWU also expressed concern about the legal age of marriage in the report, saying children below 16 years can be married with approval of the Sharia Court after verification of the suitability of the husband, which contradicts Child Rights Convention defining child age as 18 years.

Women working in the private sector earn an average of BD476, compared to BD714 for men, the report highlighted.

NGOs, who compiled the report with BWU include the Bahrain Transparency Society, MWPS, Bahrain Social Society and General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions.

Other contributors were Bahrain Young Ladies Association, Awal Women Society, Riffa Cultural Charity Society, International Women's Society, Reef Women's Society, Bahraini Women's Society, Hamad Town Women's Society and Contemporary Women's Society.

"I think the two main issues we need to focus are passing the second version of the Family Law for Shia and amendments to the Nationality Law to allow Bahraini women to pass their nationality to foreign spouse and kids," said the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Union women and children's affairs head Suad Mubarak.

She left for Geneva last night and will join other representatives from NGOs, who will hold a series of workshops and lectures with UN officials and delegates from other countries.

A delegation from the National Institution for Human Rights, headed by its vice-chairman Dr Abdulla Al Deerazi, will also take part in the CEDAW report discussions along with an official delegation from Bahrain.

Ms Mubarak said the shadow report clearly highlights the challenges and list of issues that needs to be addressed.

"Some of the points raised in the report are related to the new challenges women have faced post the political situation in 2011," she said.

"Let me make it clear that this detailed shadow report is not against the government, but only highlighting the missing points that needs their attention as civil society organisations are keen to work with them together on this."

Bahrain will discuss its achievements and challenges when it submits its report submit to the UN next week.

It says 18 equal opportunity units have been established in various ministries, official institutions and the private sector to ensure women's needs are integrated into government agencies' policies and budgets. [email protected]

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