So it is a big controversy about Bahrain’s attempt to become a member of CEDAW, which is literally the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Let me be very brief with you and explain what CEDAW is, a bit of a history, and what does it mean for Bahrain to become a member in this convention.
First of all, CEDAW is an international treaty, like many treaties, of which Bahrain has the option to become, or not, a member in it. If we choose to become a member, it means that we have to technically adjust our local laws to conform to what the treaty says. Signing the treaty doesn’t mean anything; it only signals the attempt and intention to become a member. Only when we ratify the treaty it means that we have certain amount of time to change our local laws so that we are officially and legally members.
CEDAW’s background is basically a shift from the time the world was witnessing power and aggression by the powerful on the weak. Not only the rich over the poor, or the colonizing powerful countries over the weaker states, but also men over women. For us in the Islamic World, this is rather unusual because we sort of went through this phase a long time ago when Islam entered into our lives and gave us a set of laws of which we call the Islamic Sharia to define the relationship between man, woman, and society. While we do believe that those defined laws institute our way of living, such treaties do not necessarily object, but can complement our way of life.
This is why more than 50 member countries in CEDAW are members with certain reservations. This is totally acceptable and optional as well. Just like them Bahrain has the following reservations CEDAW, which is so that it will complement and not conflict with the Islamic Sharia. Here they are:
|· Article 2, in order to ensure its implementation within the bounds of the provisions of the Islamic Shariah;
· Article 9, paragraph 2;
· Article 15, paragraph 4;
· Article 16, in so far as it is incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah;
· Article 29, paragraph 1.
And these are the stated articles:
States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:
(a) To embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein and to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle;
(b) To adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women;
(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;
(d) To refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation;
(e) To take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise;
(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;
(g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.
1. States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality. They shall ensure in particular that neither marriage to an alien nor change of nationality by the husband during marriage shall automatically change the nationality of the wife, render her stateless or force upon her the nationality of the husband.
2. States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.
1. States Parties shall accord to women equality with men before the law.
2. States Parties shall accord to women, in civil matters, a legal capacity identical to that of men and the same opportunities to exercise that capacity. In particular, they shall give women equal rights to conclude contracts and to administer property and shall treat them equally in all stages of procedure in courts and tribunals.
3. States Parties agree that all contracts and all other private instruments of any kind with a legal effect which is directed at restricting the legal capacity of women shall be deemed null and void.
4. States Parties shall accord to men and women the same rights with regard to the law relating to the movement of persons and the freedom to choose their residence and domicile.
1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
(a) The same right to enter into marriage;
(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
(d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;
(f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;
(h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration.
2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.
1. Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the present Convention which is not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months from the date of the request for arbitration the parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by request in conformity with the Statute of the Court.
2. Each State Party may at the time of signature or ratification of the present Convention or accession thereto declare that it does not consider itself bound by paragraph I of this article. The other States Parties shall not be bound by that paragraph with respect to any State Party which has made such a reservation.
3. Any State Party which has made a reservation in accordance with paragraph 2 of this article may at any time withdraw that reservation by notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Therefore, all in all, the rest of the treaty, which can be found here is actually something that our religion, Islam, encourages and pushes forward into our society. We do not have a culture that shoes aggression against women. So relax people, as long as the reservations state clearly that we will ratify this treaty but reject the articles that conflict with the Islamic Sharia, then we are good. Stay positive, our government only wants what is best for us all.