Muslim Sexual Harassment in Kuwait

Kuwait women in burqas
Photo Credit: Kuwait Times

First, some background on Kuwaiti law. Kuwait has two sets of laws. One is based on their Constitution in which Islam is the main source, but not the whole or only source for its civil law system, the second is Shariah law which is applied in family court. Although their Constitution does not mandate it, most women wear the hijab.

Despite that fact, on 7 Oct 2009, Kuwait's fatwa authority at the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs ruled that wearing the hijab is mandatory for all Muslim women. Why bother when the majority of women already wear the veil? Here's the deal: Muslim fundamentalists have been trying to make Islamic law the only law in Kuwait. And that means making sure women remain subjugate.

Whenever they can, Islamists try to add provisions to lessen the rights of women. Years ago, women were given the right to have passports to travel. But they could only apply for one if they had the prior approval of their husband. That article in the passports law was, fortunately for women, scrapped by the Constitutional Court last year.

In 2005 Kuwait gave adult females the right to vote, but fundamentalists added a last-minute provision requiring women to abide by the rules of sharia when they exercise their political rights such as voting or running for office.

An Islamist Member of Parliament, Waleed Al-Tabtabaie, pushed for that fatwa in order to unseat two female MPs, Aseel Al-Awadhi and Rola Dashti, for not wearing the hijab.

A few weeks later, on 28 Oct 2009, Kuwait's constitutional court ruled that the hijab is not required for female political candidates or for women to vote.

Kuwait is not yet as bad as the ultraconservative neighboring Saudi Arabia. However, despite the setback mentioned above, the Islamist and Salafist Members of Parliament have succeeded in pushing through laws clamping down on public entertainment and banning coeducation at universities.

Sadly, Kuwait, like other Gulf states and Arab and Muslim countries, is witnessing a surge in the number of women donning the more oppressive niqab, or full face veil.

Kuwait is hot. It's hot even if you walk around naked. Look at the photo above. There is no civil law requiring these women to wear a hijab or the niqab or a burka. But they are wearing burkas on days that would make a barely clad women faint from the heat.

If they are not forced to, why not during hot days just wear a hijab at least, it's still modest no? Because they cannot. No matter how much women say they choose to cover up so completely, only a leper would choose to insulate herself so thoroughly from public view in the heat of the desert. It is obvious they are forced to dress so.

According to the US Department Of State, "There is no specific law that addresses sexual harassment. Human rights groups characterized sexual harassment against women in the workplace as a pervasive but unreported problem."

To avoid the hassle of Kuwaiti men pinching, grabbing, and groping them, women are being forced to wear the niqab where only the eyes are exposed, or if they have beautiful eyes, to wear the burka.

Kuwait already bans the niqab for female drivers for security reasons: terrorists could use the covering to escape detection. But if Kuwait bans the niqab in all public places, what are the women to do to protect themselves? There is yet no sexual harassment laws in Kuwait.

This is not peculiar to Kuwait. In my series of articles on Muslim Sexual Harassment I will show that the entire Muslim Arab world has this problem.

Sadly, idiots traveling through Kuwait and seeing so many women wearing hijabs, niqabs, and even burkas will think that all these women are so pious, so devoted to God, and so modest that they wear these covering because they choose to. Yeah, like Sophie chose to have one of her kids killed.

I started this series of articles to investigate country by country a claim made by a reader that women choose to wear the hijab in Muslim countries and that Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the only countries that enforce a dress code. For the premier article please read Muslim Sexual Harassment in the Jordan.

This article available in Danish here.

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