In Dialogue with Kuwait, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Inquires about Women’s Rights

OHCHR

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today completed its review of the third periodic report of Kuwait on measures taken to implement the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, inquiring about the situation of domestic workers and the rights of women, among other issues. 

Jamal Al-Ghunaim, Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of delegation, introduced the report and told the Committee that sustainable development was central to the country’s plans.  A set of policies aimed to strengthen the economic, social and cultural rights of people in Kuwait, in particular through the National Plan focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 5 for improving gender equality through projects aimed at ending discrimination against women.

Committee Experts inquired about the role of Kuwait’s National Bureau for Human Rights, as well as asking about progress made toward the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Women’s human rights were one area of focus for the Committee Experts, who underscored that culture or tradition was not a static thing, and asked detailed questions about rules around women’s rights to transfer their Kuwaiti nationality to their children.  The human rights of foreign workers in the country was also a topic during the dialogue, with Committee members inquiring about legislation around strikes and contracts, including for foreign and domestic workers.  The Committee also asked about people’s access to healthcare, especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The delegation said progress had been made on the situation of women, notably through the adoption of a law to protect women from domestic violence.  The Government had also ensured that Kuwaiti women could access their rights without any distinction or discrimination in terms of housing and assistance.  Over half of all graduates from universities were women.  As for gender equality, some aspects were provided for in Islamic law, the delegation explained, adding that today, the situation of women in Kuwait was down to mindset and culture.  On the subject of culture, theatre in Kuwait was flourishing, as was popular art and literature.  Kuwait guaranteed education to all residents in the territory without any form of discrimination. 

The delegation of Kuwait was comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme Family Council, the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, the Ministry of Interior for Correctional Institutions Affairs and Sentence Implementation, the Public Authority for Manpower Sector of Protection, the Ministry of Education, the Legal Affairs of Health, the Central System for the Remedy of Situations of Illegal Residents, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Human Rights Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Kuwait to the United Nations Office at Geneva.         

The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Kuwait at the end of its seventieth session, which concludes on 8 October.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at https://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 30 September at 10 a.m. to begin its review of the report of Azerbaijan.

Report

The Committee has before it the third periodic report of Kuwait (E/C.12/KWT/3)

Presentation of the Report

JAMAL AL-GHUNAIM, Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of delegation, introducing the report,

noted that the right to development was an essential human right.  There were five sustainable development plans in Kuwait as a roadmap to achieve the sustainable goals effectively.  They were human-centered, and aimed to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDG).  The first development plan was set up in 2014 and focused on setting up a legislative framework.  The second plan looked at the development goals up to 2030.  The third development plan was set up for the period from 2020 to 2025, looking at issues covering the private sector.  The fourth development plan emphasised the knowledge economy.  And the fifth allowed the start of continuous and sustainable development in accordance with international indicators. 

Sustainable development in Kuwait was central to the plans.  Kuwait had decided to include the 2030 sustainable development goals in the plans, in particular the 2020 to 2025 plan, which had five pillars emphasising the development of the knowledge economy, strengthening of State institutions, and citizen well-being.  Kuwait’s principal development plans would establish an international economic zone and improve privatization, making it stronger and more dynamic.  A set of policies aiming to strengthen economic, social and cultural rights would prepare Kuwait to work harder on sustainable development plans by ensuring the well-being of all its citizens.  Kuwait’s sustainable development plan from 2020 to 2025 aimed at achieving sustainable development through a number of projects, which would contribute to bringing an end to all forms of discrimination against women.  Kuwait had set up a Higher Council for Employment, which encouraged women’s employment.  A programme included in the plan aimed to strengthen women’s participation in public life across various sectors. 

Kuwait had made progress on the situation of women, adopting a law in 2020 to protect women from domestic violence.  Training was also ensured for all officials to help them manage issues of domestic violence.  The legal competence of women had also been ameliorated, to enable them to act in the absence of men.  The Government had also ensured that Kuwaiti women could access their rights without any distinction or discrimination in terms of housing and assistance.  Over half of graduates from universities were women.   On the subject of culture, Mr.  Al-Ghunaim said theatre was flourishing, as was popular art and literature.  Kuwait guaranteed education to all residents in the territory without any form of discrimination. 

Kuwait had developed legislation to promote the protection of domestic workers, including through setting up a home for them which provided assistance and aided voluntary return.  The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights could not be ignored, he said, noting that it called for the cooperation of the international community.  Kuwait had provided financial assistance to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to express solidarity with the rest of the world, and otherwise taken health and administrative measures to monitor the pandemic and to limit its repercussions.  Significant health benefits were provided to all citizens, so that all could have access to the health system.  Kuwait’s delegation stood ready to provide statistics related to matters including healthcare services, education, benefits for people with disabilities, people working in the public and private sector, the guardianship system, marriages including minor marriages, human trafficking, domestic violence, and other matters. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

ASLAN ABASHIDZE, Committee Vice-Chair, asked which steps were taken to guarantee the independence of the National Bureau for Human Rights, and for information about its budget and structure.  How many complaints had the Bureau received, and how had it proceeded with those cases?  

Had Kuwait made progress in reaching its goals under the Paris Agreement on climate change?  Was there an existing regulatory framework, for public and private companies, ensuring that economic, social and cultural rights were safeguarded as per the Covenant?  Kuwait was a rich country, and according to the report, nobody was living under the poverty line.  Yet the only supporting statistical information was from 2013.  How had the situation changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?  On the topic of discrimination, was it time for Kuwait to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law?  

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation, thanking the Committee for its questions, said that the global economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had caused the incomes of some to increase, whereas others had remained on the same level.  Kuwait had taken a number of initiatives to minimize the negative impacts on family incomes, and on the foreign workforce residing in Kuwait. 

Kuwait’s National Bureau for Human Rights was a body composed of legal experts and representatives of civil society organisations.  The National Bureau had its own budget and special headquarters, and was currently engaging and hiring experts.  The Ombudsman of the Bureau was in charge of receiving human rights complaints.  Governmental bodies were encouraged to follow up on any questions put to them by the National Bureau.  The Bureau had become a positive element in promoting human rights in Kuwait, the delegation said.  It had received classification according to the Paris Principles.  Kuwait’s Ministry of the Interior and Prosecutor’s Office were among the institutions with which the Bureau cooperated. 

With regard to Kuwait’s obligations on climate action, the delegation said there had been improvement on a few points, including projects aimed at mitigating climate change and limiting emissions.  The main fact remained that Kuwait had joined the Paris Agreement.  With regard to the issue of discrimination, the constitution of Kuwait had provisions to combat racial discrimination.  On another subject, the delegation specified that enterprises established in Kuwait were subject to Kuwaiti laws. 

Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts

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