| GEO World|
| Kuwait grants women passports without spousal nod|
| Updated at: 2150 PST, Wednesday, October 21, 2009|
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait's highest court granted women the right to obtain a passport without their husband's approval, the case's lawyer said Wednesday, in the latest stride for women's rights in this small oil-rich emirate.
Unlike with highly conservative neighbors like Saudi Arabia, women in Kuwait can vote, serve in parliament and drive — and now can obtain their own passports.
In many countries in the region, women cannot travel or obtain a passport without the consent of their male guardian.
Attorney Adel Qurban, whose case the court was ruling on, said the landmark decision "freed" Kuwaiti women from the 1962 law requiring their husband's signature to obtain a passport.
His client, Fatima al-Baghli, is one of thousands of women who have been petitioning courts for this right.
The court found the article in the decades-old law "unconstitutional" because it goes against the principle of equal rights for men and women.
"It undermines her free will and compromises her humanity," the court explained according to a copy of the decision provided by the lawyer.
Activist Aisha al-Rsheid hailed Tuesday's ruling, but said females in this traditional male-dominated society were still a long way from the equality promised by the 1962 constitution.
"We want to see women judges and prosecutors, we want women to give their citizenship to their children, and we want women to have the right to state-provided houses," just like men, she said.
With its history as a trading community, Kuwait has long been more liberal than the Bedouin societies in the interior of the Arabian peninsula and its 1962 constitution provides for a parliament and equality of the sexes.
Conservative elements in the country, however, have long promoted a stricter interpretation of Islam, especially regarding relations between men and women.