Islam is the state religion; roughly 70 percent of Kuwait's inhabitants are Sunni, while 30 percent are Shi'as. Kuwait does not recognize dual nationality. There are no laws against domestic violence, and there are no shelters, support centers, or free legal services to aid female victims. Syracuse University Press, , A personalized Thank You written on the back of a postcard with an image from Women of Kuwait on the front.
Yet, in general, women's rights groups and the Human Rights Committee have not effectively dealt with the issues of gender discrimination and women's unequal access to justice. Women in Kuwait have few restrictions on the right to practice their religion and beliefs. Since the s, religious observance among women has been on the rise. An increasing number of Kuwaiti women are now choosing to wear the hijab, pray in the mosques, and perform the pilgrimage rituals.
Non-Muslim women also have the freedom to practice their religions. There are seven churches in Kuwait that serve the needs of the Christian community: Minority religious groups such as Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and others are free to practice their religion in private homes or on the premises of the recognized churches.
Social norms and official policies remain a major hurdle to women's freedom of movement in Kuwait. By custom, Kuwaiti women must request permission from their male guardians or parents to travel abroad or visit friends at night. However, police generally do not arrest and return a woman to her home if she is found to be traveling alone. However, many large businesses send their female employees abroad for business or conferences, and it is uncommon for women to face problems in their employment due to gender-related travel restrictions.
There are two different sets of active family laws in Kuwait: The Sunni Family Law affects the majority of Kuwaiti women, as Sunni Muslims constitute the majority of the population. The Sunni Family Law, as interpreted in Kuwait, legitimizes male control over women. However, while Sunni Family Law requires husbands to support their wives and children, it does not provide the husband with the absolute right to ta'a obedience.
Article 89 of the Sunni Family Law specifies that a husband should not forbid his wife from working outside the home unless the work negatively affects "family interests. The phrase can thus be interpreted as referring to the stability of the marriage or the upbringing of the children. The very notion that women have a right to work has been stigmatized by a commonly held view in Kuwait, that women's neglect of domestic duties has led to a rise in divorce rates, juvenile delinquency, and drug addiction among Kuwaiti youth.
A husband is permitted to have more than one wife under both Sunni and Shi'a family laws. A man can marry a second wife without the permission of his first wife, and in some cases, without her knowledge. A wife may not petition for divorce on the grounds that her husband has taken another wife.
If a man remarries, his second wife is expected to share the same house with his first wife, unless the husband has the means to provide his second wife with a new home.
Under Sunni Family Law, a divorced woman will retain custody of her children until her sons reach 15 years of age and her daughters are married. If the mother remarries, she forfeits the right to custody. While Sunni Family Law in Kuwait provides husbands with the unconditional right of divorce, women do not have the same rights and are unable to petition for divorce.
However, women do have some form of protection against arbitrary divorce and mistreatment. A woman is owed financial compensation equal to one year of maintenance if her husband divorces her without her consent.
Women also have the right to seek divorce if they are deserted in the marriage or subjected to darar violent treatment that leads to physical injury. However, proof of injury is required in such cases.
This is often difficult for many women, because they tend not to file complaints with the police and do not report causes of injury to doctors. Unsupportive and untrained police and doctors who examine abuse cases also hinder the gathering of evidence. According to reports, some husbands even try to bribe police to ignore charges of domestic violence.
The most discriminatory aspect of the Sunni Family Law in Kuwait involves the marriage rights of women. The Sunni Family Law deprives a woman of the right to conclude a marriage contract without the presence and consent of her wali guardian. The wali is usually the woman's father, or in his absence, her brother, uncle, or other close male relative. In other words, a woman cannot marry the partner of her choice without the prior approval of her family.
Yet, in cases in which the father of a Kuwaiti woman has refused her choice of husband, the Sunni Family Law grants a woman the right to appeal the decision of her wali in family court. Some women opt to marry outside Kuwait to circumvent the marriage restrictions.
Nevertheless, a marriage contracted outside Kuwait is not legally recognized within the country; the head of the bride's family has the right to ask the court to annul the marriage. The minimum legal age for marriage is 15 for girls and 17 for boys. Within the urban community, it is rare for girls to be married at an early age or forced into marriage.
However, arranged marriages between families of similar social standings are still the norm. A woman can refuse to marry altogether and remain single, but the social burden placed on aging single women is so high that most women prefer an unhappy marriage to facing the social stigma of the spinster label.
Kuwait's penal code prohibits the practice of all forms of slavery, torture, cruelty, or degrading punishments against any person regardless of age, gender, religion, or nationality. Slavery-like practices such as forced marriages and forbidding a person to leave the home are rarely reported.
There are no forms of protection against these practices. Kuwait's labor laws specify that a working day should be restricted to eight hours, yet female domestic workers are often underpaid and forced to endure long working hours.
There are also reports of abuse of domestic workers and foreign women in the workplace. Domestic workers can take legal recourse against their employers by filing complaints directly with the Dasma police station — the main center for dealing with employer abuse cases, or with Kuwait's administrative courts.
Kuwait has been drafting a new labor law to protect the rights of domestic workers. Yet by the end of , the law had not been finalized. While domestic violence is a concern in Kuwait, the lack of comprehensive data and research on this issue makes it difficult to assess the severity of the problem.
No known NGO or government office efficiently works to collect such statistics. The scarcity of analyzed data on domestic violence in Kuwait is partly due to the social belief that this issue is a family affair. Victims of abuse are often reluctant to file complaints with the police due to fear and shame, and little effort has gone into providing assistance or protection to the victims.
There are no laws against domestic violence, and there are no shelters, support centers, or free legal services to aid female victims. Rape and sexual assault outside marriage tend to receive more attention from the police and the press than incidents of domestic violence.
There have been reports of the physical abuse of female detainees under police custody, but no monitoring mechanism is in place to record such violations on a regular basis. Women's groups have not been able to work effectively to promote and actualize women's rights surrounding autonomy and personal freedom in Kuwait.
In , issues of domestic violence and the exploitation of domestic workers did not feature highly in the campaigns of Kuwaiti women's rights groups and received only sporadic coverage in the press.
Kuwaiti women's groups did advocate for amendments to a number of articles that curtail women's rights within marriage, including the right to choose one's husband and an increase in the minimum age of marriage for girls. Kuwaiti women are entitled to own and have full and independent use of their land, property, income, and assets. A woman's right to inheritance, as defined in the family law and in accordance with Islamic Shari'a, stipulates that a brother should receive double his sister's share.
Kuwaiti women are freely able to enter into business and financial contracts and activities at all levels. Women have the right of ownership and the right to dispose of assets, as well as the legal right to undertake civil and commercial transactions, conclude contracts, and engage in commercial and financial transactions. It is not necessary for a woman to obtain the consent of a husband or father to exercise these rights.
By law, any Kuwaiti over 21 years of age may conduct any commercial activity in Kuwait provided that he or she is not affected by a personal legal restriction, such as a criminal record. All Kuwaiti citizens, men and women, are guaranteed free and equal access to the education system, from primary school through the university level.
Students are also provided with equal opportunities to study abroad. However, Kuwaiti women are required to seek the permission of their male authority figures to accept study-abroad scholarships. Kuwaiti women comprise almost two-thirds of university-level students and more than half of the student population of the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training.
Women are enrolled in all major subjects and graduate at higher rates than men. In the mids, Kuwait University introduced different GPA requirements for the admission of female and male students, with the goal of reducing the percentage of female students in certain academic fields. Female students are now required to have a 3. Women must possess a 3. A rationale for such policies is the dilemma presented by the right of a woman's male guardian or husband to restrict her right to work outside the home.
Because of instances in which women graduates of professional schools have been forbidden to work, some believe that admitting a woman to medical school may ultimately be a waste of that seat, as after graduation she may not be able to pursue the profession.
A male student, by contrast, has no such constraints. Thus the odd logic that while a male student may be less qualified than a woman, he will certainly work as a professional after graduation, while the woman may not be able to do so.
Women's access to education began in the s and has since provided Kuwaiti women with opportunities that have enabled them to become financially independent and pursue diverse careers. Women's contributions to the Kuwaiti labor force increased from 20 percent in to 40 percent in , with the majority of the increased number of female employees filling positions within the public sector. Women can be found in most professional fields including engineering, architecture, medicine, and law. Yet, they do not have full freedom to choose their professions; women are prohibited from working in the police, the army, and the judiciary.
Women in Kuwait generally receive equal pay for equal work in the public and private sectors. According to labor laws, a woman who performs the same work as a man must be paid equal remuneration. Embassy in Kuwait does not provide this service.
You have the right to retain your passport at all times in Kuwait. If you provide your passport to your employer, you should obtain a written, date-stamped, and signed receipt. Otherwise, your employer may not be accountable for unlawfully retaining your passport. If you plan on working in Kuwait, you must obtain a work visa before you arrive. Embassy advises all U. Regardless of your status in Kuwait — official, diplomatic, military, contractor, or private citizen — you may not bring weapons, ammunition, or ammunition clips into the country when flying into KWI on commercial flights.
These items will be confiscated, and you may be arrested. When traveling to or from Iraq, be prepared for delays at land crossings. Kuwaiti officials are extremely sensitive about such travel and may detain you for questioning or deny entry into the country.
Kuwaiti authorities have delayed, temporarily detained, or refused entry to U. Medical examinations are required for all individuals seeking residency in Kuwait.
Verify this information with the Embassy of Kuwait before traveling. Kuwait continues to face the threat of terrorism. Terrorists may target U. Please review the Worldwide Caution before traveling to Kuwait. Terrorists may target public transportation, as well as residential areas, schools, places of worship, oil-related facilities, restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage-taking, kidnappings, or assassinations.
Criminal activity is low, but on the rise, particular along the Gulf Road, at shopping malls, hotels, and residential neighborhoods. Incidents include petty theft, car break-ins, and harassment of or sexual assault on women traveling alone. Embassy recommends all visitors to Kuwait to dress conservatively to avoid unwanted attention. If you are injured, seek medical treatment before filing a police report.
Bring the medical report with you to the police station. Please note, while the U. Embassy does not recommend any particular medical course of action or provider, only medical reports from Kuwait public hospitals will be accepted as the basis of a legal claim for injuries in Kuwait.
File crime reports at the police station in the area where the crime occurred. Have a local attorney or an Arabic speaker come with you. See our webpage on help for U. Embassy at for assistance. Victims often encounter difficulties reporting domestic violence or sexual assault crimes to the police. Female officers are rarely available to assist with these cases. The few social service agencies that exist are often limited to Kuwaiti citizens.
Consider hiring a private attorney. The Embassy maintains a List of Attorneys on the website. Seek medical attention and collection of evidence as soon as possible. Victims of abuse or sexual assault must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital.
Hospitals typically contact a criminal investigator to assist a victim of crime. The investigator may have you file a police report and obtain documents required for evidence collection before you can receive treatment. You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be deported, arrested, or imprisoned.
Some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website. It is illegal for non-Kuwaiti citizens to participate in any demonstration, even if the demonstration is licensed. If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U. See our webpage for further information.
If arrested for criminal violations, you may be detained for weeks without formal charges being filed. Juvenile proceedings are closed to all but court officers. PAM offices assist residents according to the location of your employer and are open Sunday through Thursday, We recommend going to the office with an Arabic speaker.
PAM offices are located at:. It is illegal to photograph government buildings, military installations, and oil-related infrastructure. Ask for permission before photographing people. Some women find being photographed offensive and may report the incident to local police.
Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are prohibited. Custom regulations are strict, particularly regarding firearms and religious materials. Consensual same-sex sexual conduct between males is illegal, with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fines.
Societal discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity is common. Public transportation is generally inaccessible for handicapped patrons.
Handicapped parking spaces are common, but are often used by the general public. Kuwait traffic enforcement has made efforts to penalize unauthorized use, but this still remains a problem. Most medical facilities and public buildings in cities have wheelchair ramps and elevators. Outside of urban areas, access is greatly reduced. See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
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Tamara Qabazard, 29, Single, Veterinarian at Kuwait Zoo () I think women in Kuwait have more equality to men than women in other gulf countries. Titled “Women of Kuwait,” the project examines eleven Kuwaiti females between the ages of 20 to 40 in various professions and marital statuses, pictured in their bedrooms. “I chose the bedroom because it’s the most private place and I wanted to show the raw side of women,” Al Asaker says. Project “Women of Kuwait” have been featured in galleries and photography festivals including: March 7, , Solo Show at the Permanent Mission of the State of .