x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

GCC to promote women's rights

Joint committee will co-ordinate efforts to combat domestic violence and to improve employment and education opportunities.

Female students throughout the GCC will benefit from a committee which will develop empowerment strategies for women.
Female students throughout the GCC will benefit from a committee which will develop empowerment strategies for women.

New York // A Qatari diplomat has unveiled plans for a Gulf-wide committee designed to deal with domestic violence and other issues faced by women on the Arabian peninsula. Alya Ahmed bin Saif al Thani, counsellor of Qatar's UN mission, told delegates to a UN committee meeting that members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) were striving to improve conditions for women.

The proposed committee would oversee efforts to combat violence against women, trafficking of women and children and improve opportunities in schools, colleges and the workplace. "A study is currently under way for the establishment of a council ministerial committee that would co-ordinate and organise the work of the councils and entities relevant to the issues of women, children and the family in the GCC States," Ms Thani said at UN headquarters in New York this week.

Representing all members of the GCC - the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia - Ms Thani addressed the UN General Assembly's third committee during a debate on the role of women and development. Ms Thani said Gulf governments had established hotlines and special units to help victims of domestic violence while developing programmes to combat the problem. "They have also undergone a stage of legislative reviews to ensure the explicit criminalisation of such offences, and are currently engaged in augmenting the data base for domestic violence and violence against children and women, while focusing on training professionals working in the fields relevant to co-operation with international organisations," said the diplomat.

A GCC committee has already helped increase the number of women in the Gulf job market and developed social security and retirement programmes that encouraged women to succeed in the workplace. "Emphasis has been placed on the importance of improving the situation of limited income women and assist with their integration in social life, protecting women from all forms of violence, sustaining efforts to eradicate illiteracy among girls and women," added the diplomat.

Ms Thani acknowledged that governments develop divergent strategies towards female empowerment. The GCC alone illustrates such diversity, with the UAE appointing women as cabinet ministers, judges and ambassadors, while Saudi Arabia prohibits women from driving vehicles. "It is necessary also to emphasise that there is no single model that can be applied in all countries, but, rather, every state must find the appropriate basis and the convenient plans to confront this violence," Ms Thani told the UN's committee for social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

Within the Gulf, Ms Thani spoke of the need to develop laws and guidelines "in line with the tenets of the Islamic sharia" and highlighted the "importance of sensitising society to the significance of the role of women in the family and in society". The latest report by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, on the topic, Intensification of Efforts to Eliminate All Forms of Violence Against Women, described measures taken by Gulf government to improve the lives of abused women.

Omani officials were planning to build refuge shelters for women and are eliminating gender stereotypes from school textbooks, while Qatar has carried out a field study on violence against women to guide public policy. In the UAE, judges have received special training on handling cases of abused women and improving the availability of research into domestic violence, said the report, released in August.

Doctors in Saudi Arabia have been trained to assist battered housewives, while the kingdom's hospitals and clinics are increasingly compiling data on the problem to guide officials. @Email:jreinl@thenational.ae