Bahraini activist calls for legislation to support women

April 20, 2011

A Bahraini woman activist has called for a law that gives women abandoned by their husbands the right to obtain immediate divorce.

“There is a need to punish irresponsible men who leave their wives and children without support or any income,” said Amal Juma, the founder of Panel to Support Deserted Women, a voluntary organisation that fights for the rights of women abandoned by their husbands.

Juma said the organisation has succeeded over the past few years in attracting media attention and helping more than 50 women get justice. Ironically, Juma herself has not been so successful and has been fighting a legal battle for five years now seeking separation from her husband.

The mother of four told a Manama-based newspaper that her husband was not granting her a divorce because of a dispute over the family home and would divorce her only if she gave up the house allotted to her by the government under a housing unit grant scheme.

“I own and live in this house, so there is no way that I will hand it over to him,” she said.

Amal needs the divorce papers to avoid losing the monthly assistance of 150 Bahraini Dinars (Dh1461) she gets from the social development ministry.

She has been given exceptional assistance from the government even though she was officially married to an employed man. However, officials from the ministry have been asking her to produce the documents to avoid losing the allowance.

She said her case was not unique and there were several other similar ones. Many women abandoned by their husbands and not receiving financial assistance have been unable to get divorced due to legal complications.

“While the majority of our members have been deserted by their husbands and are seeking divorce, we have also dealt with custody and alimony cases,” Juma said.

The activist added that she and other women were grateful to the Supreme Council for Women, the official institution working to elevate the status of Bahraini women, and to Bahrain’s Women Union, an umbrella for associations of women’s rights activists, who have provided support to her cause and even helped with specific cases where women needed assistance.

Bahrain currently has two women ministers, 12 members of parliament, several women ambassadors and many activists. However, the struggle for more women’s rights has been difficult due to strong resistance from the mainly conservative establishment.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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