Tuesday, December 05, 2006

December 2006

Vol XXIX NO. 259 Monday 4th December 2006

I hope the lone woman makes a difference

By Amira Al Hussaini

Out of 21 women who ran for parliamentary and municipal elections, not a single one has managed to secure a seat, with the exception of Hawar Islands representative Latifa Al Gaoud, who stood uncontested. If figures speak the truth, then this is precisely the worth of respect 300,000 voters, who make up 72 per cent of the electorate, have for women in my country.

According to officials, the elections were run fair and square and it was up to the people of my country to choose their representatives.

Other than pressure from religious scholars, who came to the conclusion that the participation of women in public life was unIslamic, our people have had their say. Unlike the last elections, where some female candidates went on to the second round, the voting public has made it easier this time and eliminated them in the first round.

My fellow citizens have decided that women can be anything from ministers to Ambassadors to housemaids, from wives, mistresses and lovers to teachers, engineers and accountants - in fact, they can be all that they can possibly imagine, except of course municipal councillors and members of parliament.

Somewhere in the mentality of Bahrainis, there is a script which says that those two public offices are restricted for men only (preferably bearded ones), who know more about how Allah wants His creations to conduct their daily affairs than all the other citizens put together.

But if the performances of both our esteemed parliament and municipal council in their first four-years of our new born democracy are a measuring stick, then I fully understand why the general public has unanimously decided to shield women from such drudgery.

I am not a pessimist, but other than laughable drafts and suggestions, what comes immediately to your mind when I mention parliament or municipal councils in Bahrain?

Veiled mannequins? Veiled drivers? Segregated universities? Banning freedom of association? Restricting the right to public gathering? Or the classic: municipal councillors going missing in Thailand!

Leave the actual work aside and look at all the squabbles and fights which have plagued our democratic process, in an assembly where some members are blinded by their own narrow ideas to the extent that their only response to an opposing view is physical power, screams and verbal abuse.

And you want genteel women to be part of this unruly gathering? No thanks.

After all, we women can do much better and more noble tasks away from bureaucratic set-ups where a bunch of hairy men compete amongst each other over who can grow his beard longer!

Let's see if they behave better this time round, with the presence of a lone woman in their ranks.

(Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.)


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