Promises Betrayed

Denial of Rights of Bidun, Women, and Freedom of Expression in Kuwait

Human Rights Watch today called on Kuwait to revoke laws that discriminate against women and long-term non-citizens of Kuwait. In a report issued before the opening of the Kuwaiti National Assembly on October 28, Human Rights Watch also called on Kuwait to amend its Penal Code and Printing and Publications Law to protect freedom of expression. The 38-page report, "Promises Betrayed: Denial of Rights of Bidun, Women, and Freedom of Expression," details Kuwaiti laws and practices which systematically discriminate against women and stateless Bidun, and laws which criminalize free expression by journalists, academics, and writers. These laws contravene Kuwait's international treaty obligations, including the six human rights treaties that Kuwait has signed since 1968. Human Rights Watch said that Kuwaiti women face severe discrimination in both public and private life. Under Kuwaiti penal law, men who kill female relatives in so-called "honor crimes" serve a maximum three-year sentence and are not prosecuted for murder. Women are banned from voting and standing for election, cannot contract their own marriage or divorce without the agreement of a male guardian or judge, and are barred in practice from many public positions, including serving as judges.