Supreme Council for Women
The Supreme Council for Women (SCW) is Bahrain’s advisory body to the government on women's issues. It is chaired by Sheikha Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the wife of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The current Secretary General of the Supreme Council is Hala Al Ansari.
The Supreme Council was established to promote women’s rights in the Kingdom and women’s full participation in society, and has been at the forefront of the campaign for the introduction of a unified personal status law (see women’s political rights in Bahrain for more details). It has also published studies, worked to coordinate campaigns with other women’s rights groups, and sought to promote female candidates for the 2006 municipal and general elections. Among the candidates contesting the 2006 poll, to be held on 26 November 2006, is the Council's Dr Munira Fakhro, who is standing for the ex-Marxist Waad.
According to Lulwa Al Awadhi the biggest obstacle to women's rights in Bahrain are clerics, who set political agendas for their followers and have remained steadfastly against a united family law in the kingdom. Ms Al-Awadhi said of particular concern is Shia clerics' objections to women taking part in municipal elections due to what she termed their 'strange' perception that female municipal councillors may be called late in the night to help with a municipal problem and thus be placed in a morally compromising situation.
Former activist with the Supreme Council, Dr Nada Haffadh, was appointed Bahrain’s first full female cabinet minister in 2004 when she became Minister of Health. Several other members are legislators in the upper chamber of parliament, the Consultative Council.
Ghada Jamsheer, the most prominent women's rights activist in Bahrain has accused the Supreme Council of hindering women's rights in Bahrain, calling it a "government cliché". In a statement in December 2006 she said:
|“||The government is using the family law issue as a bargaining tool with opposition Islamic groups. This is evident through the fact that the authorities raise this issue when ever they want to distract attention from other controversial political issues. While no serious steps are taken to help approve this law, although the government and its puppet National Assembly had no trouble in the last four years when it came to approving restrictive laws related to basic freedoms.
All of this is why no one in Bahrain believes in Government clichés and government institution like the Supreme Council for Women. The government used women’s rights as a decorative tool on the international level. While the Supreme Council for Women was used to hinder non-governmental women societies and to block the registration of the Women Union for many years. Even when the union was recently registered, it was restricted by the law on societies.
In a May 2007 statement, the Women's Petition Committee called for the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Women, citing its failure in "building and supporting Bahraini women". It further noted that "most women attained decision making positions on the basis of tribal or sectarian affiliation or personal allegiance to the Authorities and some members of the Royal court." The statement claimed that the SCW withheld support to prominent female activist Munira Fakhro in the 2006 elections, knowingly allowing Ali Salah of the Salafist Islamist Al Asalah party to win.
- Ghada Jamsheer, Time magazine, May 14, 2006
- Activist on Forbes list, Gulf Daily News, 15 May 2006
- Women in Bahrain and the Struggle Against Artificial Reforms, Ghada Jamsheer, 18 December 2006
- Letter to the King of Bahrain Concerning Failures of the Supreme Council for Women, Women's Petition Committee, 2 May 2007
- Supreme Council for Women (Arabic)
- Supreme Council’s campaign for the personal status law (Arabic)
- 'Clerics biggest obstacle to women's rights in Bahrain' Kuwait Times, 1 April 2006
- Prospective women poll candidates learn campaigning Khaleej Times, 21 March 2006
- Seminar to focus on women's achievements Gulf News, 23 March 2006