Women in Oman

The issue of promoting women’s rights in Oman is considered one of the challenges that has seen very slow progress compared to other public rights. Despite Oman’s signing and ratification of the CEDAW, restrictions imposed on women and laws biased towards men continue to be in effect in local legislation in Oman.

For instance, despite Article 15 of the Basic Statute of the State guaranteeing equality between men and women, laws such as those concerning Personal Status and Penal Codes incorporate provisions that constitute violations of women’s rights. Additionally, according to the latest Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum, Oman ranked very low at 139 out of 146 countries, scoring no more than 0.614 points.


Article 7 of the Personal Status Law specifies the legal age of marriage as 18; however, Article 10 of the same law grants judges the authority to marry minors if it is deemed to be in their best interest, without considering the age or psychological state of the woman. Additionally, paragraph 8 of Article 35 of the same law prohibits Muslim Omani women from marrying non-Muslim men. This poses a challenge to women and their rights to equality with men in Oman, as men wishing to marry non-Omani women face no religious constraints, requiring only written consent as stipulated in paragraph 7 of the same article.

Furthermore, the law allows men the right to marry up to four women simultaneously, while emphasising that it is the duty of women to care for their husbands, raise their children, and manage household affairs, as stipulated in Article 38. Additionally, Article 11 of the law does not recognise guardianship for women unless the guardian is male and Muslim. This is because a woman cannot be a guardian for herself or for another woman, regardless of her educational or intellectual level.

Moreover, the law applies the concept of “marriage suitability” only to women, as per Article 20. Suitability here refers to social compatibility or equality, which often poses a dilemma for women as long as the guardian is male, granting them the right to refuse a marriage based on suitability grounds. Furthermore, Omani legislation continues to delay recognising marital rape as a crime. Despite cases of domestic violence linked to mistreatment of wives by husbands, local laws do not include a definition of marital rape nor prescribe penalties. This is because the Personal Status Law mandates that it is a wife’s duty to comply with her husband’s wishes, as stated in paragraph 1 of Article 36, focusing solely on mutual enjoyment between spouses.

The law similarly does not grant women equal rights to men regarding divorce. Article 82 provides men with the right to initiate divorce, a right not afforded to women. A woman can only initiate divorce if her husband grants her the authority to do so. This conclusion aligns with the findings of the Gender Gap Report.


Many Omanis viewed Decree 23/2023 as a facilitator for Omani citizens to marry foreigners. However, the Omani Nationality Law issued in 2014, which does not grant courts jurisdiction over nationality matters (Article 4), imposes obstacles for women compared to men. When an Omani man marries a non-Omani woman, any child born to an Omani father, whether in Oman or abroad, becomes Omani even if the mother is not Omani, as the law only requires prior approval from official authorities for such marriages. However, children of Omani women married to non-Omanis face severe and intricate discrimination in acquiring Omani nationality or passing their mother’s nationality to them.

For instance, besides requiring prior approval from official authorities for marriage, the law stipulates, according to Article 18, that for a child or minor to obtain nationality, the mother must be widowed, divorced, or abandoned by her husband for at least 10 years. The minor must also have resided in Oman for a period of no less than 10 years. Even if the custody condition is met by the mother, obtaining the guardian’s consent, if applicable, remains a fundamental requirement for nationality acquisition.

Global Gender Gap Report:

Oman ranked very low at 139 in the Global Gender Gap Report for the year 2023, published by the World Economic Forum, marking its second consecutive year at this position. In the report’s section on economic participation, Oman received a high ranking regarding wage equality for similar work, placing fourth with a score of 0.792. However, in the same section, Oman ranks 135th in terms of labour force participation rate. Additionally, in the political empowerment section, Oman ranked 142nd regarding women’s representation in parliament. It is worth noting that following the October 2023 elections for the Shura Council, the lower house of parliament with an advisory role, no women were included in the council’s membership. Furthermore, Oman is one of the countries that still prohibits women from working as judges. The report also highlighted the inequality between men and women in divorce matters, as previously mentioned in the section on personal status law.


Women in Oman continue to suffer from social and legal discrimination. The absence of any female representation in the Shura Council after the recent election results reflects a loss of confidence caused by discriminatory laws against women, such as personal status law, Omani penal code, and nationality law. Reports like the Global Gender Gap Report provide a translation of the legal, societal, and economic situations regarding this matter in Oman. Despite the government’s attempts to place women in high political positions, such as ministerial roles, there have been no serious reform-oriented steps taken towards achieving comprehensive and fair equality with men, such as the right to pass citizenship to children.

The OCHRD calls for the Omani legislature to work towards achieving fair gender equality and treating women as independent entities not subject to guardianship or marital control, as evident in several laws.

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