A champion for women inside Parliament?

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Bahrain is in need of a strong legislative voice in support of empowering women, protecting their rights, and ensuring that families and children are protected by the law. 

This is necessary for consolidating the Government’s own efforts to secure legal protections for women. This is also vital for initiating and promoting new legislative proposals, such as the draft bills circulated within the Shura Council and the Council of Representatives at the end of the last legislative year for protecting victims of rape.

In order to achieve this, the elected Parliament’s Women and Children’s Committee was an initiative which came into being after 2012, with the mandate of acting as an advocate for women in the Parliament; supporting pro-women legislation; and standing up for causes in the interests of women.

On 8 November 2016 a vote was held in the Council of Representatives for membership of the four smaller permanent committees, each composed of five members. The resignation of Khaled al-Shaer after this vote left this committee with a membership of three MPs associated with the Salafist Al-Asalah society

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Identity - ABC of civil society

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While the Government determines what political direction a nation takes, it is civil society which determines the national identity of a particular country – both how that country is perceived abroad and how the public sees themselves.

Without an active civil society there is no opportunity for a vibrant cultural life, and few opportunities for citizens to gain a clear understanding of how they see themselves and their wider society.

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Support for Shia Family Law: A week in politics

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27 Oct – 2 Nov

Seven years after opposition MPs blocked legislative efforts towards a Family Law for the Shia community (in the end only a Sunni law was passed); leading figures are once again prioritizing a revised Shia law.

The Justice Minister has spoken about the importance of these measures for protecting women and families on more than one occasion in recent weeks. At the National Conference for Bahraini Women on 1 November, the Family Law was also a central issue.

The King’s wife and President of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), Princess Sabeeka in her opening comments at this Conference stressed the necessity of accelerated efforts to issue a law for the protection of Shia families. She also called for stand-alone court buildings to fast-track family law cases.

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Citizens for Bahrain analysis

Bahrain is a pioneer in many ways, particularly in the various domains of arts and culture. While the country is experiencing progress towards reform and democratization, we see several barriers. One such example is the manner in which some elected MPs want to impose their ideology on the rest of the society.

During last week’s Parliament session several MPs called for a ban on music festivals, Halloween parties and the obligatory music lessons provided as part of the curriculum in public schools. This minority of MPs claimed that music, arts and diversity were not a part of Bahraini culture and that all parties and festivals should be suspended, “in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Syria and Yemen”.

Islamist MPs have a problem with the fact that Bahrain is by far one of the most culturally diverse countries in the region. It is unfortunate no MPs challenged these negative and socially-backwards views. These incidents reveal the lack of articulate progressive and liberal voices in Parliament and civil society which could stand up for the rights of moderate and liberal young Bahrainis when Islamist MPs propose legislation to limit personal freedoms.

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