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June 23, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

Gulf Daily News: Rights push ‘helped battle gender bias’

By Mohammed Al A’Ali ,  Posted on » Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MAJOR improvements to women’s rights in Bahrain has lead to greater equality in the country’s courts, said Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and Supreme Council for Women president.

However, Princess Sabeeka said more needed to be done to reform the judicial system to protect the rights of women and children in Bahrain.

She said the Arab world had seen a noticeable progress in women’s rights, particularly in the practice of law which has protected their status within the community.

She was speaking yesterday during the opening of the Second Women’s Humanitarian Rights Conference held at Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea and Spa, which was organised by SCW in co-ordination with the Arab Women’s Organisation (AWO).

The two-day event, under the theme Bright Turning Points In Arab Court Verdicts, aims to shed light on the progression of women’s rights in courts and recent judgements issued in their favour.

“We have to look into ways to improve women’s awareness in all of its issues whether financial, social, cultural, legal or in the media,” said Princess Sabeeka.

“The AWO deserves admiration for coming up with a unified plan to develop women’s rights and enhance capabilities and abilities so that women could take their rightful places as real contributors to society.”

Princess Sabeeka stressed that Bahraini women had significantly contributed to the development of the country’s economy.

She also said it was important for women to look at regional experiences as it would help improve humanitarian cases.

However, Princess Sabeeka called on more judicial reforms to empower women, protect their rights and encourage more economic and political participation.

“Women here handle many patriotic responsibilities, but more judiciary reforms are needed to protect women’s family and social status and public life in general,” she added.

Meanwhile, SCW secretary-general Hala Al Ansari said legal rights of women in Bahrain and the Arab world would be highlighted during the conference.

“We will shed light on women’s legislation and legal rights and match them with what’s being practised in the Arab world as well-known experts from across the region have been invited to show the progress of women’s rights and how more could be achieved,” she said.

“Bahrain has been a major contributor to human rights either through the National Action Charter or the Constitution that has seen both sexes get equal political and social rights, which didn’t stop at a certain phase as His Majesty King Hamad gave it a bigger push through reforms.

“In Bahrain, we have the National Institution for Human Rights – an unprecedented entity and we are currently working on the Arab Court for Human Rights amongst many other human rights projects.”

AWO director-general Dr Wadooda Badran said such events would help bridge the gap between sectors of society which have opposing views on women’s rights.

“There is weakness in awareness about regional experiences in women’s humanitarian rights and we want to increase awareness about it amongst government and judiciary officials concerned,” she said.

“We have to bridge the gap between those taking fair calls that favour women and those who don’t properly implement the law, which leads to a society with double standards.”

Arab Litigation Empowerment Project director and Lebanese women’s rights activist Dr Laila Jumhoori said it was important to update women on advancements made to their rights in the judiciary.

“The AWO has to gather information that should be distributed to women, which could help them get a view of what’s going on around them and what are the advancements or setbacks associated with interrelated statistics,” she stressed.

The conference featured two discussion sessions – the first was led by Princess Sabeeka’s adviser and Shura Council member Lulwa Al Awadhi, which included research papers by Jordanian Judge Ihsan Barakat, Bahraini government legal adviser Mubarak Al Heji and Tunisian Zuhair Eskandar.

The second session was headed by Shura Council legislative and legal affairs committee chairman Dalal Al Zayed and discussed papers by Algerian lawyer Zobaida Asool, university lecturer Dr Balqees Fatoota and Iraqi researcher Dr Ali Al Hilali.

Today’s sessions will be chaired by Mr Al Heji and Bahraini judge Amal Abul and will include papers by Palestinian lawyer Fatima Al Moaqat, Emirati women’s issues researcher counsellor Mohammed Al Mayata, Lebanese judge Fawzi Khamis, Egyptian Constitutional Court deputy chairman Tahani Mohammed El Jabali, Moroccan Judge Zuhoor Al Hur, Mauritanian researcher Hatem Al Mas and Yemeni legal expert Dr Abdulmomin Shojaddin. The event will end with a recommendations session which will be led by Ms Badran and Dr Jumhoori. mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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