Bahraini Women Participate in Parliamentary Elections for First Time
Bahrainis are electing their Parliament today for the first time in almost 30 years. But this is set to be a landmark election not only for Bahrain, but the entire Gulf region, where women are denied suffrage. For the first time Bahrain’s history, women are being allowed to run for national office and vote in a parliamentary race. More than 30 women ran for seats in the civic election in May, but not a single woman won despite representing over 50% of voters. There are eight female candidates this time around, and women are hopeful that the king will select a few women for appointed seats in Parliament, the New York Times reports.
The election is one of several major reforms set by Bahraini king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa-al Khalifa, who also allowed women to run and vote in civic elections held earlier this year, according to the Times. The Sunni Muslim king came to power three years ago and promised dramatic political changes, according to the BBC. Bahrain has been ruled by the Khalifa family for over 200 years and is the only Gulf country to allow women the option to vote and run for office. However, not everyone is happy with Bahrain’s recent reforms – the country’s largest Shiite Muslim groups are officially boycotting the election, according to the Times. The groups have labeled the new Parliament a sham since it will have no authority to legislate without the sanction of the other house of Parliament, which the king himself will appoint. The election is being closely monitored by Bahrain’s Gulf neighbors. The current elections are also very important to the US, which has naval bases stationed in the country. Bahrain has been an important ally in the past, but as possible military action against Iraq looms, strong relations between the US and Bahrain are seen as vital by the US government, according to the Times.
Being granted the right to vote is an important step for Bahraini women. Bahraini women state that their rights are constantly undermined by the country’s judicial process based on Islamic sharia law, the Associated Press reports. Earlier this month, a women’s rights rally protesting the country’s judicial system turned rowdy when they were faced with a counter-rally from Shiite Muslim groups who labeled the women’s demands “un-Islamic,” AP reports.
Media Resources: Associated Press 10/14/02; New York Times 10/24/02; BBC 10/24/02
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
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This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .