We are a couple of days away from 2022. And as we plan gatherings and make resolutions, we tend to forget that it is not a happy new year for many people. If each of us in our individual communities focused on resolutions which would transform our respective societies, then happiness would no longer be a pipe dream. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which people with lofty ideals face red tape, bureaucracy, and in the case of Kuwait, an antiquated patriarchy that seems unwilling to relinquish its control.
Still, even in our country, there are diamonds in a mine. And such an honorific title goes to the ladies of Abolish Article 153. For almost seven years, they have been pushing against a system which treats honor killings as a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum imprisonment of three years and/or a fine of 3000 rupees (the equivalent in today's Kuwait dinar is debatable). It is not just the lenient jail term or embarrassingly paltry fine which is disturbing, but the fact that there is an "or" in the article. In short, it is not a crime (but a mere misdemeanor) for a man to kill a woman caught in a sexual act. And if her lover is killed as well, it is still a mere misdemeanor. With a sentence of three years and/or a fine.
At the time the initiative surfaced in November of 2014, nobody knew about this article apart from legal experts and parliamentarians. But these ladies changed that. As soon as they launched their campaign, their efforts were lauded. And this praise culminated in the receipt of the 2016 Chaillot Prize for Human Rights in the GCC.
By 2017, the Abolish 153 team even managed to persuade five MPs to sign a bill. Since then, there are two bills in place waiting to be passed. Sadly, nothing has come out of either of them (yet). Article 153 remains stubbornly in place—an indication that there are men in power who still believe that women are their property and deserve to be killed, intimidated, abused, or harassed.
Many people have wondered aloud why a man's honor is tied to the activities of the women in their family. Wouldn't it be more conducive to our society if people focused on the only honor that matters: one's own honor? And maybe we should redefine honor as being kind and respectful to one another.
For now, let us remind everyone that the phrase "honor killing" is a misnomer. And in 2022, let's hope that the lovely ladies of Abolish Article 153 finally achieve their goal. Then, it will be a happy new year for women in our country.
But the work won't be over, as there are many other initiatives which warrant our attention. Stay tuned!
Let's Interheart, Kuwait!
(This blogpost appeared in the Kuwait Times. There is controversy as to whether 3000 rupees is equivalent to KD 14 as mentioned in the newspaper. The blog was updated to take this debate into account, along with a few other minor edits; however, the article, as it appears in Kuwait Times, is the original version prior to necessary updates/edits incorporated in this blogpost).