Kuwaiti women vote for the first time today, going to the polls to choose a local council member in the district of Salmiya. Reuters reports that the election marks the first time that Kuwaiti women have exercised their right to vote that Parliament granted them last year. In another first, two of the eight candidates running for the open seat are women, reports BBC.
According to Reuters, women make up 16,000 of the 28,000 potential voters. While women’s turnout has been low thus far, Dr. Khalida Khader, one of the female candidates, believes more women will cast their votes later in the day, reports the Associated Press. Polling stations are sex-segregated and women must remove their veil to verify their identity, according to BBC. However, the two female candidates were not permitted to display posters that showed their faces, exemplifying the tensions in a country that severly restricts women's rights and is experiencing what Dr. Khader told Reuters "is the biggest feast we [women] have been waiting for more than 40 years."
A new Gallup World Poll of eight Middle Eastern countries indicates that, in seven of the eight, over 50 percent of those surveyed agreed that "women should be allowed to hold leadership positions in the Cabinet and national council," reports United Press International. The highest percentage of agreement was in Lebanon, where 92 percent of responders agreed that women can hold positions of leadership, while there was only 40 percent agreement in Saudi Arabia. Kuwait was not included in the survey.
Media Resources: Associated Press 4/4/06; BBC 4/4/06; Reuters 4/4/06; United Press International 3/30/06