Human Rights Watch criticized the failure of the Kuwaiti parliament to pass a bill that would have granted women the right to vote and be elected to political office.

"It's appalling that as we near the end of the twentieth century, women are still being denied fundamental rights such as the vote," said Regan Ralph, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Division. "Only ten percent of Kuwaiti citizens have the right to vote, which is itself problematic. But no women in Kuwait enjoy that right, which is even worse."

Yesterday's 32-30 parliamentary vote was the second defeat for women's rights in a week. On November 23, 1999, the Kuwaiti parliament rejected a decree by Kuwait's emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, to give women the right to vote and stand in parliamentary and municipal elections scheduled for the year 2003.

Kuwait is a signatory to international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which guarantee women's suffrage.

Kuwait has exempted itself from certain treaty provisions on sex discrimination and the right of every citizen to vote and be elected for office. "The vote shows again the Kuwaiti parliament's lack of commitment to women's equality," said Ralph.