Bahrain: Urgent measures required to combat discrimination against women

Coalition for Equality Without Reservation
"The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a UN monitoring body composed of independent experts, has called on the government of Bahrain to adopt urgent measures to end serious discrimination and violence against women."
In its concluding observations, issued on conclusion of an assessment of the compliance of Bahrain with its international human rights obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee took into account the majority of concerns raised by BHRS, BWU, BCHR and the Coalition for Equality without reservation. Key concerns and recommendations include:
Unified Family Law required to end discrimination in marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody of children: Women in Bahrain are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in family matters, due to the absence of a single codified Family Law and sectarian differences in the application of existing laws between Sunni and Shia. The Committee urged the Bahrain government to raise awareness of all sectors of society, in particular traditional leaders, religious clerics, the media and civil society on the need for such legislation. The UN body also urged Bahrain to raise the minimum age of marriage of girls from 15 to 18, and to take measures to end polygamy.

Urgent measures required to protect women from violence: The Committee expressed concern over the absence of laws sanctioning violence against women, in particular domestic violence, and called for the adoption of legislation criminalising all forms of violence, including marital rape. The Committee also called for the reform of article 535 of the Penal Code, which exempts perpetrators of rape from prosecution and punishment if they marry their victims.

Women migrant domestic workers must be protected: The Committee highlighted the vulnerability and exploitation of women migrant domestic workers, « who are unaware of their rights, who cannot easily file complaints and seek redress in cases of abuses, and who are not protected by the labour law ». Bahrain should expedite the adoption of the draft labour code, ensure that it covers all migrant domestic workers, and provide them access to legal aid.

Increased efforts must be made to combat trafficking: The Committee expressed its serious concern about the persistence of trafficking of women and girls into Bahrain for sexual exploitation. Although a law on human trafficking was adopted at the outset of 2008, the government has failed to put in place the measures necessary to ensure its effective implementation. The Committee called upon the government to develop measures aimed at prevention, prosecution and punishment of offenders as well rehabilitation and reintegration of victims.

Concrete measures to increase representation of women in public and political life: The Committee called on Bahrain to establish goals to counter the under-representation of women in politics, in particular in the Council of Representatives and Municipal Councils. Political parties should use quotas.

Law required to allow women to transfer their nationality to their children: The Committee called on the government to expedite the adoption of the draft Nationality Law in order to enable the transfer of citizenship to children of Bahraini women and non-citizen fathers.

Reservations to CEDAW must be withdrawn: Finally, the Committee called upon the government of Bahrain to withdraw all reservations to CEDAW, which prevent women benefiting from key provisions, emphasising that Bahrain's reservations are « contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention ».

The Coalition for Equality without reservation, BHRS, BCHR, BWU and FIDH call on the Bahrain government to take immediate steps to implement the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee, starting with the withdrawal of all reservations to the Convention.

28 November 2008

Coalition Equality Without Reservation
Bahrain Women Union
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain Human Rights Society
International Federation for Human Rights