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Woman MP pledges to quiz justice minister
March 30, 2014, 1:09 pm
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Published advertisement seeking male-only legal researchers creates backlash

A female Kuwaiti lawmaker has vowed to question the justice minister about a decision not to hire women as legal researchers despite a statement by Kuwait’s Supreme Judiciary Council explaining that the move was only temporary.

MP Safa Al Hashem last week said she would file a motion to question the minister about discrimination against women if an advertisement published in local newspapers to recruit only male Kuwaitis as legal researchers is not withdrawn.

On Saturday, Faisal Al Mershed, the council’s chairman, said women would not be recruited as legal researchers “this year and for a limited period of time, pending assessment of their performance in the public prosecution department”.

On female legal researchers being eligible to serve as prosecution attorneys, Al Mershed said the council’s decision has taken into consideration “the conditions, circumstances and environment of the job as well as the traditions and customs of the country”.

The decision does not imply any prejudice against women or aims to undermine their dignity or to degrade their literary and cultural levels or demean their intelligence or success. It is merely an assessment of the appropriateness of the appointment to a specific position according to the circumstances, he said in a statement to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

He added that Article 2 of the Kuwaiti Constitution stipulated that Sharia is a main source of legislation and that judicial laws did not include a clear text that prohibited women from taking up positions in the judiciary or public prosecution.

“Moreover, there are differences between the various Islamic jurisprudence schools on assigning women to leading and key posts within the justice system, with each school having strong arguments supporting its views,” he said. “Even though customs and traditions had stood against women becoming judges in Kuwait, the Council last year opted to adhere to the principles of the school that allowed them serve as judges and approved the appointment of 22 young women as legal researchers, and eventually, as prosecutors,” Al Mershed said.

However, the council’s explanations seemed to have little effect on MP Safa Al Hashem who insisted she would go ahead with the minister’s quizzing for discrimination on the basis of sex. “I do have full and utter respect for the Council and for its president and the judiciary branch, but the ad should simply be pulled out for violating the text and spirit of the constitution, the laws and the civil state,” she said.

“The failure to drop the ad means that I will go ahead with the grilling and I will file the motion by the end of this week,” she said, quoted by local daily Al Watan on Sunday. The lawmaker rejected the reference to the significance of traditions in important matters for the country.

“We live either in a state ruled by the Constitution or in a country where traditions and customs are supreme,” she said. “My role as a lawmaker is to ensure the political accountability of the minister’s policy. The only-males ad is a violation of the constitution and an assault on women’s rights.

Thanks to the constitution, Kuwait has women ministers and women lawmakers, and nobody talked about the need for an assessment or probation period. If we talk about the need for an evaluation, then the government should review its policy of appointing women as ministers and reassess the Emiri decree to allow women to vote and run in parliamentary elections,” she said.

The lawmaker added that she would not reconsider her decision to go ahead with the grilling of the minister over an unconstitutional decision, saying that she had the support of several MPs.

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