The decree outlining the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Social Development represents a setback for women and their rights.

 

On March 3, 2024, Royal Decree No. 14/2024 was issued, specifying the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Social Development. The OCHRD wishes to express its concern regarding the new decree, which reduces the ministry’s jurisdiction from 18, as stipulated in the previous decree 32/2003, to 14 areas of responsibility. Of particular concern in the reduction of jurisdiction is the disregard for women’s issues within these areas, especially the two articles in the previous decree that emphasised attention to women’s issues and capacity-building for women.

Given the previous issues related to the escalating violence against women, resulting in numerous cases of femicide, along with the file of domestic violence against women and children, which the OCHRD has previously documented and monitored, the OCHRD expected an expansion of the Ministry’s jurisdiction or the relevant departments within it to include direct action. This would enable the Ministry to provide the necessary protection for girls and women, whether as preventive measures to shield them from any future danger or harm or as therapeutic measures to protect them from current problems and the inadequacy of laws in providing necessary protection.

The OCHRD has also previously raised several important points on this matter, including the provision of a hotline and an emergency intervention committee to protect girls, as well as the establishment of care and protection shelters for abused girls. This is not overlooking the controversial statement made by the Minister of Social Development, Leila Al Najjar, who stated in an interview with a Youth program, a TV show, in March 2022 that “domestic violence is not a prevalent social phenomenon..”

In addition, Article 44 of the Omani Penal Code allows parents to exercise violence against their minor children, further exacerbating the challenges faced by women and their rights. Furthermore, the Ministry has not provided any initiatives or efforts to improve the status of women or the laws that pose challenges to them and their rights, such as certain discriminatory laws within various legislation, including nationality law, Personal Status Law, and the Omani Penal Code.

The OCHRD also emphasises the importance of the role of civil society, particularly women’s associations, which may serve as representatives. It is crucial to assess whether these associations have been consulted regarding matters of escalating violence against women or issues concerning women’s rights, including nationality, among others. Additionally, it is essential to determine whether these associations, either as unified entities or branches, have contributed proposals in this regard.

It is worth noting that despite Oman’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) more than 18 years ago, and despite Oman’s non-reservation to Article 2 of the Convention, which pertains to the integration of principles of equality and non-discrimination into national/local constitutions and laws, Oman has not taken any significant steps towards implementing this equality. This is evident in laws such as the Personal Status Law and the Nationality Law.

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