Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153 group fights for women,s em­pow­er­ment

‘We can­not be com­pla­cent in al­low­ing prac­tices that dis­em­power women to flour­ish’

Kuwait Times - - Front Page - By Ne­joud Al-Yagout

KUWAIT: Ac­cord­ing to ar­ti­cle 153 of Kuwait’s pe­nal code, if a man catches a fe­male mem­ber of his fam­ily in an “un­sa­vory sex­ual (zina) act with a man and kills her or him or both, [it] will be treated as ... a mis­de­meanor pun­ish­able by a max­i­mum of three years jail time and/or a fine of 3,000 ru­pees (KD 14)”.

To ed­u­cate mem­bers of the Kuwaiti so­ci­ety of this law and to erad­i­cate it, the Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153 ini­tia­tive was launched. This year, the ad­vo­cacy group was awarded the pres­ti­gious Chail­lot Prize 2016 for Hu­man Rights in the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil. Its found­ing mem­bers are Dr Alanoud Al-Sharekh, Amira Be­hbe­hani, Lulu M Al-Sabah, Sheikha Al-Nafisi and Sun­dus Hamza.

KUWAIT: As per the mis­sion state­ment of Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153, the ar­ti­cle in ques­tion stip­u­lates that if a man catches a fe­male mem­ber of his fam­ily in an “un­sa­vory sex­ual (zina) act with a man and kills her or him or both, [it] will be treated as ... a mis­de­meanor pun­ish­able by a max­i­mum of three years jail time and/or a fine of 3000 ru­pees (KD 14).”

Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153 was born to ed­u­cate mem­bers of our so­ci­ety of this law and to erad­i­cate it. This year, the ini­tia­tive was awarded the pres­ti­gious Chail­lot Prize 2016 for Hu­man Rights in the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil. The found­ing mem­bers are (in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der): Dr Alanoud Al-Sharekh, Amira Be­hbe­hani, Lulu M AlSabah, Sheikha Al-Nafisi and Sun­dus Hamza.

Here, Dr Alanoud ad­dresses ques­tions on be­half of all the mem­bers.

Kuwait Times: What a no­ble ini­tia­tive! We were so ig­no­rant of this ar­ti­cle prior to the in­cep­tion of Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153. How did you find out about it, first and fore­most?

Al-Sharekh: I was con­duct­ing re­search on dis­crim­i­na­tion in Kuwaiti laws in 2006 - in or­der to mo­ti­vate women to be­come more po­lit­i­cally ac­tive (fol­low­ing the gain­ing of full po­lit­i­cal rights on May 16, 2005) - and was shocked to find that such a law ex­isted in Kuwait.

Rais­ing aware­ness

KT: The mem­bers of Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153 have trav­eled across the globe to seek sup­port and raise aware­ness of this cam­paign. Re­cently, it even reached the United Na­tions. Do you feel you are any closer to suc­cess in erad­i­cat­ing this an­ti­quated law or are more ob­sta­cles be­ing pre­sented as you gain recog­ni­tion?

Al-Sharekh: We are def­i­nitely gain­ing recog­ni­tion, most im­por­tantly in our own par­lia­ment, where a bill to abol­ish ar­ti­cle 153 was pre­sented in May. There seems to be a uni­ver­sal move­ment to erad­i­cate th­ese laws now, and over the sum­mer, three Arab states abol­ished the “kid­nap and marry law”, a Napoleonic throw­back sim­i­lar to 153, and one that we also have as a law in Kuwait. So we are with the tide de­spite some re­sis­tance.

KT: How has our par­lia­ment re­sponded?

Al-Sharekh: We have been lob­by­ing for the past three years, and for the most part, our MPs have been sym­pa­thetic and will­ing to help. In this ses­sion, it took a group of younger par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to take a stand against this em­bar­rass­ing leg­is­la­tion.

KT: Many women are afraid of ru­in­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of their fam­i­lies. Is there a way to re­move the stigma as­so­ci­ated with re­port­ing abuse?

Al-Sharekh: I think this will take a twofold ap­proach first by in­tro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion that deals with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­ual ha­rass­ment, which we cur­rently lack in Kuwait, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously rais­ing pub­lic aware­ness through cam­paigns and so­cial outreach pro­grams.

‘End­ing vi­o­lence against women’ sym­po­sium to be held

Pub­lic as­sis­tance

KT: As men­tioned on your web­site, Ar­ti­cle 153 “... is in bla­tant dis­re­gard of the con­sti­tu­tion, in­ter­na­tional agree­ments on hu­man and women’s rights and even the Is­lamic sharia.” Though the ar­ti­cle is in place, you have given us all hope that it will be erad­i­cated. How can the pub­lic as­sist you in your cause?

Al-Sharekh: By de­mand­ing from their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives a change in at­ti­tude. We can­not be com­pla­cent in al­low­ing so­cial and le­gal prac­tices that dis­em­power women to flour­ish. This should be a uni­ver­sal is­sue and we want the UN to take a de­fin­i­tive stand ban­ning all honor killing leg­is­la­tions. Con­cerned cit­i­zens around the world can help us lobby for our cause, in or­der to stop vi­o­lent leg­is­la­tions and the weak jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for mur­der­ing fe­male kin.

KT: And, fi­nally, you have hosted many pro­gres­sive work­shops in­clud­ing a train­ing ses­sion for ef­fec­tive cam­paign­ing. In ad­di­tion, you have used art and po­etry to raise aware­ness for the plight of women. There is also an im­por­tant sym­po­sium on Novem­ber 14. Can you tell us a lit­tle more about this up­com­ing event?

Al-Sharekh: We be­lieve that ad­vo­cacy is the way to change poli­cies, and this is of ut­most im­por­tance when it comes to end­ing vi­o­lence against women. When we as vot­ers fail to make th­ese de­mands on our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, we al­low other re­pres­sive voices to set the agenda for us. That’s why we chose to make the in­ter­sec­tion of ad­vo­cacy and pol­i­tics where end­ing vi­o­lence against women is our main theme for our sec­ond an­nual sym­po­sium. We have amaz­ing women speak­ers from Saudi Ara­bia, Le­banon and Ge­or­gia who have made huge dif­fer­ence in the fight against gen­der-based vi­o­lence in their own coun­tries. And from Kuwait we have MP Omar AlTabtabaei and Dr Ghanim Al-Na­j­jar, who will be high­light­ing how to over­come lo­cal ob­sta­cles and in­sti­gate pos­i­tive change.

The Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153 team.

A pic­ture from last year’s sym­po­sium.

Alanoud Al-Sharekh and Rana Al-Hus­seini are seen dur­ing last year’s sym­po­sium.

A group pic­ture taken at the first Abol­ish Ar­ti­cle 153 gala din­ner, fea­tur­ing (from left) Sun­dus Hamza, Sheikha Al-Nafisi, Alanoud Al-Sharekh, Amira Be­hbe­hani, and Lulu Al-Sabah.

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