Amnesty urges Gulf states to improve women’s rights
DUBAI: Amnesty International urged Gulf Arab states on Wednesday to take real steps to improve the situation of women, saying they suffered violence in the family without protection from authorities.
The rights watchdog said in a report that social and legal practices perpetuated violence against women, and migrant domestic workers particularly faced abuse in the conservative Muslim region.
“Goodwill intentions remain mere words until translated into actions,” said Abdel Salam Sidahmed, a Middle East programme director for Amnesty. “Governments must not fall short of doing what they can to bring real change in the lives of women who continue to suffer in silence.”
“Gender-based violence coupled with discrimination against women is common throughout the GCC countries and affects women at all stages of their lives,” said the report, which covered Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — members of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council.
It said there were no clear statistics on abuse of women in Gulf countries, which have retained many tribal traditions.
“The police usually fail to act in response to complaints of violence by women. Violence against women in the family is considered a ‘family issue’ or ‘normal’ in GCC countries. Moreover, social norms lead police to disregard the criminal nature of such assaults against women,” the report said.
It catalogued cases of abuse and discrimination against women, including foreign domestic workers, investigated by the rights group.
Oil wealth has brought modern infrastructure, Western customs and an army of Asian and European workers to the region.
Gulf states say women’s rights are protected under Islamic sharia law.
The rights group said it had not been allowed to visit Saudi Arabia, the largest and most conservative Gulf state, but had held a conference on women’s rights in Bahrain in January.
Women hold ministerial posts and run businesses in most Gulf countries, but in Saudi Arabia, where laws are based on a strict interpretation of Islam, women are not allowed to drive or open bank accounts on their own.
Women in the region are also discouraged from discussing abuse, even rape, for fear of being stigmatised.
The report said many endured abuse in silence due to “very limited possibilities” for economic and social independence. reuters