Kuwait parliament gives women the vote

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On May 17, 2005, the National Assembly of Kuwait passed, by a majority of 35 to 23 (with 1 absetention), an amendment to its electoral law that would allow women to vote and to stand as parliamentary candidates. Commentators predict that this will increase the number of eligible voters from approximately 139,000 to approximately 339,000, out of a population of approximately 960,000.

"We made it. This is history," prominent activist Roula al-Dashti told reporters. "Our target is the parliamentary polls in 2007. I'm starting my campaign from today." Kuwait becomes the fourth Gulf country where women as well as men can vote in elections after Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar. Saudi Arabia holds strictly limited, male-only elections. "I hope they are talking about separate ballot boxes and not the imposition of Islamic dress... which infringes on personal freedoms," Kuwait University academic Nada al-Muttawa said.

"This is a historic moment for women," Sheikha Suad al-Sabah, a member of the ruling family, said.