The Constitutional Court yesterday issued a landmark ruling by abrogating an article in the 1962 passports law that banned Kuwaiti women from obtaining their own passports without the prior approval of their husbands.
The ruling, which is final and cannot be appealed, said that the article in the law violates a number of articles in the constitution, especially articles 29, 30 and 31 which guarantee personal freedom. In the ruling, the court also stated that under the constitution, women right to travel cannot be denied by anyone including their husbands because this is one of their basic rights in the constitution.
Female MP Aseel Al-Awadhi welcomed the ruling as a victory for the constitution and democracy in Kuwait, adding that it has eliminated a long injustice against Kuwaiti women. She said that she will work to amend all laws passed by the previous National Assemblies which are in violation of the constitution.
The ruling was triggered when a Kuwaiti woman sued her husband kept her passport and those of their three children and refused to give them. The court ordered the man to give the passports. The constitutional court also said that husbands cannot prevent their wives from travelling without a court order and only when they prove that their travel undermines the interest of both parties.
In another development, the battle for bank loans relief was officially launched yesterday after a number of MPs filed a request to convene a special session to debate the issue on November 17. The request however will be discussed in the assembly’s opening session of the new term on October 27 or in early November.
It was signed by MP Saadoun Hammad and nine other MPs, according to Hammad but many more MPs are likely to sign later. The request calls on the assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee to study a number of draft laws on the issue and submit its report to the assembly latest by November 10.
The bills call for the government to purchase all existing personal loans on Kuwaiti citizens and then reschedule their repayment over many years after scrapping all interest. The government has so far rejected the bills saying it was ready to increase the capital of a KD500-million fund established last year to help defaulters.
Finance Minister Mustafa Al-Shamali has said that the amount of the loans and interest is KD6 billion and any purchase or write-off will be highly expensive and harmful for national economy. Latest available official figures show that 278,000 Kuwaitis are debtors and around two percent of them are facing problems repaying. Supporters of the debt relief claim to have the support of at least 30 lawmakers, insisting that they will push through the draft law and pass in the assembly.
However MPs supporting the bills have blasted Shamali and threatened to grill him in the assembly over the issue. Islamist-tribal MP Daifallah Buramia yesterday strongly criticized the minister and threatened that he will use his “constitutional tools” against the minister if he does not change his position.
MPs have claimed that around 100,000 Kuwaiti debtors are facing legal action, including arrest, for being unable to repay, and held the finance ministry and the central bank responsible for the crisis. The issue is likely to snowball into a major flashpoint between the government and MPs during the next term unless an acceptable compromise was reached.