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Kuwait parliament moves ahead with women's rights legislation

[JURIST] Kuwaiti draft legislation broadening women's rights was approved by a parliamentary panel Sunday and will likely be debated in the house in the next two months. The panel's head, MP Saleh Ashour [Kuwait Politics Database profile, in English and Arabic], revealed that the bill would make government housing, currently only offered to married men, available to women who are married to non-citizens, divorced or widowed. Other benefits include two-year maternity leave, a monthly stipend for unemployed mothers, and an increase in paid leave from 40 days to 70 days. If passed by parliament, the bill must then be signed by Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah [BBC profile] to go into effect. AFP has more.

In May 2005, the Kuwait National Assembly [official website] passed a law granting women the right to both run and vote in parliamentary elections [JURIST report]. The legislation passed in the all-male parliament by a vote of 35 to 23 on an issue that had spurred strong reactions by conservative Islamists on one side and women and human rights activists on the other. Less than a month later, two Kuwaiti women became the first to be appointed to public office [JURIST report] in a municipal council. June 2006 marked the first time women were able to vote in a parliamentary election. Saudi Arabia is now the only Middle Eastern country where regular elections are held in which women cannot vote.

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