International Women’s Day

March 8th is recognized as the International Women’s Day, celebrating women’s achievements in various fields such as economics and politics. The celebration on this day is linked to the feminist movement during the Russian Revolution in 1917.

The United Nations considers parliaments to play a crucial role in promoting gender equality by ensuring the right to participation between men and women.

Regarding violence against women, the United Nations has also expressed concern that only 5% of government assistance worldwide is focused on addressing violence against girls and women, while less than 0.2% of assistance is allocated to preventing violence.

In order to ensure that women are not overlooked in participation and equality, the United Nations has identified five key areas requiring collective action to achieve this, namely:

 

    • Investing in women, a human rights issue,
    • Ending poverty,
    • Implementing gender-responsive financing,
    • Shifting to a green economy and care society,
    • And, Supporting feminist change-makers.

As part of the Human Rights Initiative commemorating the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-Parliamentary Union organized a roundtable gathering of parliamentarians from around the world. This resulted in the issuance of a document, The Pledging Tree, containing several commitments, including:

‘dopting zero tolerance codes of conduct and reporting mechanisms in parliaments on gender-based violence, ensuring access to decent work and social protection for all women, and ensuring that the education system puts an end to gender stereotyping.’

In Oman, women’s rights continue to experience very limited progress that does not meet expectations or even represent the international commitments made by Oman through its signing of the CEDAW convention in 2005.

The Personal Status Law discriminates against women in matters concerning divorce, child custody, inheritance, and legal guardianship. Legally, men are appointed as guardians under Articles 38 and 39, with child custody automatically granted to men after divorce.

Although Decree 23/2023 allowed Omanis to marry foreigners or non-Gulf nationals without the need for permission from the Ministry of Interior, as was previously required, the decree did not address any measures regarding nationality issues, especially for Omani women married to non-Omanis or non-Gulf citizens. Women continue to face discrimination and injustice in this regard.

Despite over 18 years having passed since Oman’s signing of the CEDAW convention, and despite Oman not expressing reservations about Article 2 of the convention, which relates to the integration of principles of equality and non-discrimination in national/local constitutions and laws, Oman has not taken any serious steps towards implementing this equality, as evidenced in the Personal Status Law and the Citizenship Law.

Additionally, the Omani Nationality Law (Decree 38/2014) discriminates against women, as evident in Article 11, which considers a child Omani if the father is Omani – even if the mother is foreign – whether the child is born in Oman or abroad. This right is granted to women only if the father’s lineage is unknown. Furthermore, Article 18 of the law grants nationality to the minor child of an Omani woman married to a non-Omani in specific cases such as divorce or if she is widowed or abandoned by her husband for ten consecutive years, provided that the child has been residing in Oman continuously for ten years.

Moreover, the Omani law does not explicitly address domestic violence, sexual harassment, or marital rape strictly. Girls and women who fall victim to these practices still face significant difficulty in reporting any abuse that may occur against them for various reasons related to customs, traditions, or religion. The Omani Penal Code, Article 44, allows parents to use violence against minors for disciplinary purposes.

Furthermore, official authorities claim that the hotline 1100 is dedicated to reporting violence against women and children, while in reality, especially concerning women, the hotline receives reports for cases of violence against minors – if it does not comply with paragraph A of Article 44 of the Omani Penal Code.

In addition, cases of domestic violence in recent years resulting in homicides, such as those of Badriya Al-Dughishi, Ibtesam Al-Maqarshi, and Amal Al-Abri, have not yet prompted Omani legislators to issue the necessary laws to ensure the required protection and provide prevention from any physical or psychological harm against victims in the future.

Regarding political participation, despite the minimal representation of women in leadership positions in government entities, the results of the elections for the tenth term in October 2023, for the Omani Shura Council, witnessed zero representation of women in the council. The government has not taken measures through its local tools to avoid this by providing programs that enhance women’s participation and also assist in their election, despite its knowledge of the reality of women and elections through the minimal representation of women within the council in previous elections.

Unfortunately, women in Oman continue to face numerous challenges, both in terms of equality under Omani laws compared to men, as seen in the requirement for some jobs advertised by official institutions like the Ministry of Labor to be exclusively designated for males without consideration for females, and also in terms of political representation and their ability to participate in parliamentary work.

 

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