Gender-based Violence: Tackling An Unspoken Reality

A protest organized last week at Al-Erada Square, in front of Kuwait Parliament, saw women dressed in black holding placards that read ‘Blood on your Hands’ , ‘End Gender-based Violence’ and ‘Do we have to die in front of you for you to hear us?” The march was organized to protest the brutal murder two days earlier of a Kuwaiti woman, by a citizen who had been harassing her after she and her family spurred his marriage proposal.

The horrendous murder of the young Kuwaiti woman on 20 April shocked the country and sparked unprecedented outrage among the public, and on social media platforms. The protestors at Al-Erada Square were marching to highlight, both the heinous nature of the crime, as well as to demand protection for women from continued harassment and all other forms of violence.

They called on parliament to form a committee to study the problem of harassment, stalking and tormenting of women prevailing in the country, and to come up with appropriate and comprehensive plans, and suitable punishment for perpetrators, so as to prevent such crimes from occuring in future.

Significantly, the latest murder comes two months after activists in the country had launched a nationwide campaign to end sexual harassment and violence against women. That campaign had brought out dozens of testimonies on social media sites from women in Kuwait about their bitter experiences of being stalked, harassed or assaulted in Kuwait.

In recent years, Kuwait’s legal code has increasingly come under attack from community-based organizations and activists for its generally tepid response to crimes against women. Activists say that the detached and apathetic approach by the legal and legislative appartuses to recurring instances of violence against women have led to exacerbating the problem and emboldening perpetrators of violence in the country.

The Kuwait Penal Code treats the crime of ‘honor killing’ as a mere misdemeanor and provides only reduced punishment — a maximum of upto three years in prison, or only a fine — to a citizen for the killing of his female relative, if he finds her committing adultery.



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