Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women continued to be a problem. Rape carries a maximum penalty of death, which the courts occasionally imposed for the crime; spousal rape is not a crime. The media reported hundreds of rape cases, but government statistics were unavailable. Social stigma associated with publicly acknowledging rape likely resulted in underreporting because of reluctance by women to report the crime. Many victims were noncitizen domestic workers. Police occasionally arrested alleged rapists. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against rape, especially in cases of noncitizen women raped by their employers.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, but courts try such cases as assault. A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint with police requesting formal charges be brought against the alleged abuser. Victims, however, did not report most domestic abuse cases, especially outside the capital. Police officials rarely arrested perpetrators of domestic violence even when presented with documented evidence of the abuse, such as eyewitness accounts, hospital reports, and social worker testimony, and treated such reports as social instead of criminal matters. Individuals also reportedly bribed police officials to ignore assault charges in cases of domestic abuse. Although courts found husbands guilty of spousal abuse in previous years, those convicted rarely faced severe penalties. Noncitizen women married to citizens reported domestic abuse and inaction or discrimination by police during past years, but no data were available for the year.
A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from abuse, but the law does not provide a clear legal standard regarding what constitutes injury. Additionally, a woman must provide at least two male witnesses (or a male witness and two female witnesses) to attest to the injury. There were no known shelters or hotlines specifically for victims of domestic violence, although a temporary shelter for domestic workers housed up to 200 victims during the year. The government completed construction of the shelter for domestic workers in 2012, but the shelter was not fully operational. As of year’s end, it lacked adequate communication abilities for the women sheltered there; moreover, ministries had not occupied designated offices due in part to a lack of internet connectivity.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There are no laws regarding FGM/C; however, there were no reported cases of the abuse.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There were no honor crimes reported. The penal code penalizes honor crimes as misdemeanors. The law states that a man who sees his wife, daughter, mother, or sister in the “act of adultery” and immediately kills her or the man with whom she is committing adultery faces a maximum punishment of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 225 dinars ($800). Sentencing guidelines for honor crimes do not apply to bidoon.
Sexual Harassment: No specific law addresses sexual harassment, but the law criminalizes “encroachment on honor,” which encompasses everything from touching a woman against her will to rape, and police strictly enforced this law. The government deployed female police officers specifically to combat sexual harassment in shopping malls and other public spaces. Perpetrators faced fines and imprisonment. Nonetheless, human rights groups characterized sexual harassment against women in the workplace as a pervasive and unreported problem.
In November 2013 Haifa al-Kandari, a sociology professor and assistant dean of student services at Kuwait University (KU), stated publicly that sexual harassment existed at the school. She based the allegation on a study she conducted among female KU students. The university contended that the information was inaccurate and suspended her from her administrative position. The media also reported several cases in which former boyfriends attempted to blackmail their former girlfriends by threatening to post revealing photographs or videos of them online.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Decisions regarding access to contraceptives, family size, and procedures involving reproductive and fertility treatments required the consent of both husband and wife. The information and means to make those decisions, as well as skilled attendance during prenatal care, essential obstetric care, childbirth, and postpartum care were freely available. While the government did not provide any formal family planning programs, contraceptives were available without prescription to citizens and noncitizens.
Discrimination: Women have many political rights, including the right to vote and serve in parliament and the cabinet, but they do not enjoy the same rights as men under family law, labor law, property law, inheritance law, or in the judicial system. Sharia (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over personal status and family law cases for Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sharia, as implemented in the country, discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement, marriage, and inheritance. Secular courts allow any person to testify and consider male and female testimony equally, but in sharia courts, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.
The law prohibits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men. The law does not require a non-Muslim woman to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man, but many non-Muslim women faced strong economic and societal pressure to convert. In the event of a divorce, the law grants the father custody of children of non-Muslim women who fail to convert. A non-Muslim woman who fails to convert is also ineligible for naturalization as a citizen and cannot inherit her husband’s property unless specified as a beneficiary in his will.
Inheritance is also governed by sharia, which varies according to the specific school of Islamic jurisprudence. In the absence of a direct male heir, a Shia woman may inherit all property, while a Sunni woman inherits only a portion, with the balance divided among brothers, uncles, and male cousins of the deceased.
The law grants a “housewife allowance” to nonworking women age 55 and older. Female citizens are unable to pass citizenship to their noncitizen husbands or their children; exceptions were made for some children of widowed or divorced female citizens. Male citizens married to female noncitizens did not face such discrimination.
The law states that a woman should receive “remuneration equal to that of a man provided she does the same work,” although it prohibits women from working in “dangerous industries” and in trades “harmful” to health. According to the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF), Kuwaiti women comprised 45 percent of the public sector workforce (not including state-run companies or domestic workers). International assessments reported the average working woman earned 6,600 dinars ($23,430) annually, compared with 18,691 dinars ($66,350) for the average working man. According to labor union statistics, only 8 percent of workers at or above the managerial level were women. Educated women contended the conservative nature of society restricted career opportunities, although there were limited improvements. While women comprised 72 percent of college graduates at KU, they were underrepresented in the number of students sent to study internationally, likely due to continued societal concerns about permitting young women to study abroad away from their families. Of the 3,252 students who studied abroad on government grants, only 19.2 percent were women.
The law requires segregation by gender of classes at all universities and secondary schools, although it was not always enforced. Public universities enforced this law more rigorously than private universities.
Two members of the 50-seat National Assembly elected in July 2013 were women, although both subsequently departed (see section 3). When it reconvened in October, the parliament reconstituted its committee on women’s and family affairs. Some women attained prominent positions in business as heads of corporations, but only one woman served as a minister in the cabinet.
There were no female judges. In November the first 22 female employees of the PPO completed their training and became public prosecutors. In 2013 these 22 women were the first to be accepted to the judicial institute. During the year, however, the Ministry of Justice again tried to prevent women from applying for entry-level positions in the PPO, although the ministry eventually accepted applications from women after a court decision reaffirmed their right to apply for the job. Graduation from the institute is a prerequisite for employment as a prosecutor or judge.