Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape carries a maximum penalty of death, which the courts occasionally imposed for the crime; spousal rape is not a crime. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against rape. Violence against women continued to be a problem. There were reports alleging that some police stations did not take seriously reports by both citizens and noncitizens of rape and domestic violence.
Media reported two to three dozen rape cases, but government statistics were unavailable. Incidents of rape were likely underreported to authorities due to intense social stigma associated with sexual violence crimes. Many victims were noncitizen domestic workers. When reported, police typically arrested and investigated alleged rapists and, in a limited number of cases, prosecuted the accused. In September 2015 the Court of Cassation revoked a life sentence on a citizen for raping a Filipina woman and instead sentenced him to death.
The government does not publish statistics on violence against women. A local women’s advocacy NGO estimated 20,000 women were victims of some form of domestic violence or abuse during the year. The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, but in some instances 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. There were no known shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence. In July 2015 the government established two hotlines for reporting domestic violence. The hotlines are operational only during the working hours and are operated by staff with limited training. Calls and cases are referred to professional social workers. In some cases hospitals denied treatment for victims of sexual assault who had not reported the case to the police first. In December 2015 a noncitizen woman who was raped sought medical care at a hospital but was informed that a police officer would have to interview her first.
A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from spousal 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 such injury.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Officials did not report any honor killings during the year. The penal code penalizes some 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 ($743).
Sexual Harassment: Human rights groups characterized sexual harassment in the workplace as a pervasive and unreported problem. 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 of sexual harassment and assault faced fines and imprisonment.
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 manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The information and means to make 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: 44 percent of women ages 15-49 used a modern type of contraceptives, and 16 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning, according to UN Population Fund 2015 estimates.
Discrimination: Women do not enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, but citizen women enjoyed many political rights, including the right to vote and to serve in parliament and the cabinet (see section 3, Elections and Political Participation). 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, child custody, and inheritance. There were no known cases of official or private-sector discrimination in, credit, owning and/or managing a business, and housing. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to both citizen and noncitizen women. Secular courts allow any person to testify and consider male and female testimony equally, but in sharia courts, which govern personal status matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance issues, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.
The 1984 Kuwaiti Family Law Code 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 or his family sole custody of children of non-Muslim women who do not convert. A non-Muslim woman who does not convert to the religion of her husband 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.
Female citizens are unable to pass citizenship to their noncitizen husbands or their children; however, exceptions were made for some children of widowed or divorced female citizens (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons). In August the government awarded citizenship to 180 children of Kuwaiti widows and divorcees. Male citizens married to female noncitizens do not face such discrimination. In May parliament approved awarding loans up to 70,000 dinars ($231,000) for single Kuwaiti women. The law grants a “housewife allowance” to nonworking women age 55 and older.
Women experienced discrimination in the workplace (see section 7.d.).
According to government statistics, women comprised only 14 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers.
In October the country’s highest court ordered an end to affirmative action for male applicants to medical schools on grounds it is unconstitutional. Prior to this court ruling, female applicants were required to demonstrate a higher minimum grade point average than male applicants. The law requires segregation by gender of classes at all universities and secondary schools, although it was not always enforced.
A limited number of women attained leadership positions in the private sector as heads of corporations, but only one woman served as a minister in the cabinet.
In 2014 the first 22 female employees of the Public Prosecutor’s Office completed their training and became public prosecutors, a prerequisite for appointment as a judge. In August the Supreme Judicial Council ruled that after serving as prosecutors for three years women would be eligible to serve as judges.