Today, March 8, 2021, the world celebrates “International Women’s Day” in the context of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the global difficulties it has caused in terms of human rights in general, and consequently, it has carried greater discrimination in societies against women. From here, the United Nations focused on the effects of the pandemic on women in the world, under the title: “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in COVID-19 world”.

Women are at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers, and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. On this day, the United Nations calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs.

In Bahrain, the pandemic brought greater difficulties for women, as nurses, doctors, and health sector workers, as well as home caregivers, stand in the front lines to confront the epidemic. The role of women human rights defenders in Bahrain is highlighted, as it has been marked by many dangers and the limitation of movement, which has a negative impact on human rights work, in addition to the harassment they are subjected to by the authorities. The most important form of harassment is preventing the formation of associations.

Violations were evident against domestic workers, who constitute the majority of foreign workers, in addition to 36.6% of the total female workforce in Bahrain. In light of the introduction of many legal reforms to improve working conditions for migrant workers, women domestic workers have been excluded from many protection measures, and some reforms do not grant them equal rights. In addition, Bahrain has not ratified any of the agreements specifically related to the protection of migrant workers or women domestic workers.

On the legal level, Bahrain has not made any progress to achieve equality, as laws are still unfair to women (family law, inheritance, work, motherhood …), on top of which is the Family Law of 2009. This law is a clear violation of international laws as it remains, from a human rights perspective, a discriminatory text in terms of legal rules, especially concerning divorce and child custody. Women are still considered minors in cases of guardianship, child-custody, education, nationality, inheritance, etc … Bahrain is still one of the countries that do not give the right to a Bahraini mother to grant citizenship to her children if she married a non-Bahraini. Moreover, Article 353 of the Bahraini Penal Code, which provides for exempting the offender from criminal prosecution for crimes of rape, sexual assault, or immoral acts if the woman who is the victim of the crime marries her offender, is still implemented.

Therefore, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the authorities in Bahrain to the following:

  • The immediate release of human rights defender Zakiya Al-Barbouri, and dropping all charges against her;
  • Ensuring the right of all women human rights defenders in Bahrain to carry out their legitimate work in the field of human rights without fear of punishment;
  • Guaranteeing female human rights workers’ freedom from all restrictions, including judicial harassment or prosecution;
  • Expanding the coverage of both the Labor Law and the Social Insurance Law to include domestic workers;
  • Expanding the coverage of both the Labor Law and the Social Insurance Law to include domestic workers;
  • Providing more support for working mothers, such as setting a flexible work schedule;
  • Ratifying of all ILO conventions on gender discrimination and the rights of women in the workplace;
  • Lifting the reservations on CEDAW;
  • Allowing civil society organizations concerned with women’s rights to participate in amending and drafting discriminatory laws in line with international conventions.