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Monday, June 02, 2008

Male Kuwaiti MPs insulted at female MPs without hijab

The good news is that Kuwait actually has two members of its parliament who are women.

The bad news is that the male MPs are upset that they don't wear their hijabs:
Muslim hardliners in Kuwait's parliament walked out of the body's inaugural meeting on Sunday to protest two female Cabinet ministers who were not wearing headscarves.

The nine men left just after lawmakers and ministers started taking the oath of office. They returned after the two women, Modhi al-Homoud and Nouria al-Subeih, were sworn in. Neither of the women were wearing long dresses or covering their hair, which Islamists maintain is required by their religion.

No female legislators have won any seats since 2005 when women won the right to vote in Kuwait, but the prime minister appointed two to the Cabinet.

Al-Homoud, the minister of state for housing and development, ignored attempts by conservative lawmakers remaining in the chamber to take the floor as she read her oath. She wore a skirt rather than long robes or a headscarf.

Al-Subeih, the education minister, dressed conservatively though not with a headscarf and was not interrupted. She went through a similar situation when she was first appointed in April 2007.

Many women in Kuwait wear headscarves and long dresses, but Islamic dress is not mandatory like in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Right after this incident the lawmakers voted to force the women to abide by male rules:
The conservative-controlled Parliament later approved by 33 votes to 21 a proposal by Islamist and tribal MPs to refer the case of the two women ministers without hijab to the house legal committee. It will have to establish if the two violated a law requiring women to “abide by Islamic regulations while voting or contesting the elections.”
This is the Kuwaiti version of equal rights for women: if they are going to be visible, they had better be invisible.