‘Deserving’ women to receive salaries to stay at home

Proposal by a parliamentarian to grant ‘deserving’ working women a stipend to remain at home and look after the family, has raised the hackles of women’s group and social activists in Kuwait.

The proposal tabled in parliament by MP Majed Al-Mutairi was the topic of discussion in a recent debate organized at the Promenade Cultural Center Complex by the Youth Movement under the title ‘Niqashna’ (our discussion).

While some speakers lauded the lawmaker for making the proposal, many others strongly condemned the proposal. Some labeled it as a ‘flawed’ move against women and society, and lashed out at those MPs who plan to put Kuwait on the list of backward countries, instead of solving the problems currently facing Kuwait, and looking for ways to contribute to the realization of Kuwait Vision 2035.

Writer and researcher in economic affairs Mohammad Ramadan voiced support for the proposal, saying that it had been ‘misunderstood’ by the media. He said the proposal was aimed at married women who had to work and take care of their families at the same time, and is the opposite of what had been published widely in local media.

He pointed out that according to the proposal, if a married woman choses on her own to stay at home and take care of her family, she will be given a financial allowance based on her educational level.

The monthly ‘assistance’ proposed by MP Al-Mutairi is as follows: intermediate and less would ‘earn KD500 per month, a person with secondary qualification would be paid KD550, diploma holders would get KD600, university graduates KD650, and master and above KD700 per month, provided they are not the recipients of any other government financial assistance.

Ramadan expressed surprise that the Women’s Cultural Association, whose main purpose is to defend the rights of women has strongly opposed the proposal to distribute financial assistance to women who want to stay at home. Moreover, the association has said that women who receive the allowance may not stay put in the house.

However, writer and former Deputy Director-General of Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) Iqbal Al-Ahmed said she was against the proposal. She explained providing monthly assistance to women 18 years and above who prefer to stay at home is a shame for women and society as a whole.

She said such proposals were made to further the notion that women should be held responsible for family problems such as poor child upbringing, holding her responsible for high divorce rates, destabilization of the family and disguised unemployment. She pointed out that Kuwait today is suffering from budget deficits, fiscal deficits in future generations fund, oil crisis, etc, etc, and wonder how the parliamentarians give importance to marginal issues that contribute to waste of the country’s wealth.

She stressed that besides her responsibility at home and raising children, she also contributes to building the society, especially since Kuwait has not given up on Kuwaiti women in higher education and sent them on scholarships abroad to obtain the highest academic degrees, then how come the parliamentarian thinks of a law to make a woman ‘sit at home’.? Al-Ahmad added that Kuwaiti women have obtained all their rights and the labor law in Kuwait is fair to women from pregnancy until the end of breastfeeding.

There are subsidies and financial assistance for divorced or retired women at age 50 and other forms of assistance, but it is not logical to tell a young woman 18 years old and above to sit at home and “we will give you monthly financial assistance”.

Instead, she said that, “there must be a serious desire to find radical solutions to the problem of unemployment.” She expressed regret that women were held responsible for disguised unemployment, although there is also convincing unemployment among men.

She added, there is a religious segment that sees the right place for a woman is the home, or rather that women are born only to raise children and to cook and clean, as stated in most school curricula, which unfortunately was ‘injected’ into generations of today some of whom occupy the decision-making chairs and promote such proposals. Al-Ahmad stressed her firm rejection to marginalizing the role of women in society and confining her role to home only.

For her part, Dr. Ghadeer Asiri, a Professor of Criminal Law at Kuwait International Law School, said during the debate that the proposal to pay the woman’s salary and keep her at home was put forward in the 1990s and then again in the 2010 National Assembly, but failed to win the necessary votes to have it passed.

She added, reducing the women’s role in society contradicts international conventions. “Today, the kind of laws we see will in the long run diminish the role of women.” Asiri said that this proposal when it was put to parliament in the past was subjected to a political attack and said it is surprising that this new proposal has once again shown its ugly side again.

Writer Khalid Al-Tarrah asserted that women are an essential partner with men in the development of society and stressed that the Women’s Cultural Association is not the only opposition to the parliamentary proposal to pay financial assistance to women and keep them at home, but many Kuwaiti men also have rejected this proposal, and said he is among those who reject the proposal.