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KUWAIT CITY, Jan 17: Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released its World Report for 2023; in which it severely criticized Kuwait on various aspects of freedom, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and empowerment of women, reports Al-Qabas daily.
Following are excerpts of the report on Kuwait:
• Two-thirds of Kuwait’s population are migrant workers who remain vulnerable to abuse; largely due to the sponsorship system that links expatriate visas to their employers, and requires the sponsors’ consent for expatriate workers to resign or change jobs.
Reforms have yet to be implemented, while there has been a proposal to include domestic workers to the sponsorship system introduced earlier. During the past year, no additional legal reforms were introduced to end the arbitrary sponsorship system.
Domestic workers face abuse, including forced confinement in employers’ homes, and verbal, physical and sexual abuse. The country has shelters and procedures to respond to victims’ complaints, but there are serious obstacles to accessing them, especially for certain violations like overdue or delayed wages.
The National Assembly approved the Domestic Violence Law in 2020, which includes some penalties to combat domestic violence, and provides some assistance to survivors; but the lack of implementation of these measures to protect women and girls from violence is still significant, including the failure to establish shelters for survivors or other services required by law.
• Continued restriction of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, trial of activists and others; using many provisions of the Penal Code, national security laws and cybercrimes; and discrimination and obstacles that Bedouns face in obtaining their right to access health, education, employment and social services.
Some Kuwaiti laws, such as publications publishing, and cybercrimes, criminalize various aspects of freedom of expression, such as exposure to jurists and members of the Public Prosecution Office.
• The country further restricted women’s rights, while failing to address discrimination and violence against them. Regression in dealing with the file of women’s rights and discrimination in Kuwaiti personal status laws against women on matters of marriage, divorce and child custody. Unlike her male counterpart, a Kuwaiti woman married to a non-Kuwaiti man cannot transfer the Kuwaiti nationality to her children or husband.
Despite the outrage over the shocking killings of women in recent years; the perpetrators of some of these crimes sometimes get away without punishment or given reduced sentence of up to three years in prison or a fine.
Women have been allowed to join the Kuwait Army, but only if they obtain permission from the guardian or husband, they should wear the hijab, work only in medical and support jobs, prohibited from carrying weapons, and will not be registered except when necessary to fill up vacancies.
In February, a yoga event was banned when some MPs objected, saying that women practicing yoga in public was “dangerous”. In the previous year, a gymnasium that was supposed to host dance classes for women was shut down.
• Kuwait is one of the world’s hottest and most water-stressed countries, so it is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It is the world’s seventh largest exporter of crude oil and it has the sixth highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world.