BCHR Releases Report on Discrimination Against Women in Bahraini Society and Legislation

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Link to the full report.


Since the King of Bahrain assumed the throne after his father, he issued most of the laws currently in use through royal decree, as well as issuing legal decrees to a lesser extent. Through such decrees it was agreed to participate in UN agreements related to women’s rights including the convention against torture and others such as cruel treatment, harsh or inhumane penalties and the international convention for the elimination of all types of sexual discrimination. Further it also included the UN convention for children’s rights and participation in the International Labor Organization’s 1999 convention eliminating the worst forms of child labor and the immediate action to abolish it as well as the convention to eliminate all types of discrimination against women. Similarly Bahrain participated in the Optional Protocol regarding involvement of children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography included under the UN convention for Child’s Rights. The Bahraini government agreed to participate in the international treaty related to economic, social and cultural rights. In 2006 and 2007, under royal decree the Kingdom of Bahrain participated in the International covenant for political and civil rights. In 2011 it ratified the convention on rights of persons with disabilities. Finally on 23/11/2013, Bahrain signed the UN agreement on arms trade.   

In comparison to other regions of the world, Bahrain is lacking in the provision of protection of human rights relative to its adherence to its international treaties. Furthermore there are no efficient regional mechanisms to enforce and protect human rights similar to for example the US courts, the EU human rights courts or even the African Commission on human and tribal rights. The current example of such regional mechanism is the Arab Charter on human Rights which has been ratified by a number of Middle Eastern countries. It is however criticized for being amongst the weakest of similar charters internationally, mainly due to questions surrounding the effectiveness of the authority set up to implement the charter. Furthermore, the Arab League of Nations agreed to establish an Arab Criminal Court in Bahrain, despite Bahrain not being a signatory to the Rome convention for International Criminal courts. Questions may arise in regards to its mandate, who will be appointed as judges and under which legal principles will it conduct its proceedings?

The ratification of such treaties is an important matter, as it is upon ratification that a government holds itself to the obligations of these treaties and conventions. The real challenge however is in actual implementation of these rights as it requires a strict compliance and strong political will form the part of the government. Furthermore, it also requires the participation of civil societies and public engagement in order to ensure proper and transparent adoption of policies entailed in the treaties. This is particularly true for segments of society whose voice is often the weakest due to the discrimination and other similar factors.

Interpreting these treaties is the mental process intended to draw on the content and extent of the legal provisions contained in the international agreement in preparation for application to the reality. Currently, however, what is happening in Bahrain is a process of throwing away the book of laws and instead adopting an “end justifies the mean” approach, making the obligations contained in the treaties secondary to the challenge of limiting activism through preventing their rights to express their political views, peaceful assembly or association, getting a divorce and participating in government. Therefore it is not surprising that as a result there have been greater human right violations particularly against women. 

Link to the full report.