Kuwaiti female lawmaker Rula Dashti on Sunday submitted an amendment to the Gulf state electoral law that aims to scrap a requirement that women must comply with Islamic Sharia law guidelines.
The guidelines were introduced four years ago when parliament voted to grant women full political rights but added a precondition that both women voters and candidates must comply with regulations dictated by Sharia law.
The law does not explain the nature of the regulations, but last week the emirate’s Fatwa Department ruled that under Islamic law, it is an obligation for Muslim women to wear the hijab head cover.
Although the fatwa, or religious edict, was general in nature and did not specifically refer to Kuwait’s election law, it triggered conflicting reactions from Islamist and liberal lawmakers and activists.
Islamist lawmakers called on female MPs and a minister to comply with the ruling while liberal and female legislators stressed the fatwa is not binding since it did not come from the constitutional court.
“The fatwa is not binding to the Kuwaiti society. The only reference for us is the constitution,” issued in 1962, she told AFP.
Dashti said that including Sharia regulations in the electoral law is a breach of the constitution.
“The regulations clearly violate articles in the constitution which call for gender equality and make no reference to Sharia regulations,” she said.
Four Kuwaiti women made history in May when they won seats in parliament for the first time.
Two of the women MPs wear the hijab while Dashti and Aseel Al-Awadhi do not. Education Minister Mudhi al-Hmoud also does not wear the hijab.