UAE women ‘not yet ready for politics’

DUBAI — Participants in a discussion on Dubai TV’s Mash’had programme on women’s entry into politics in the UAE have expressed the doubt if they are ready to shoulder the responsibility.

By Eman Al Baik

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Published: Fri 15 Apr 2005, 11:42 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:04 PM

The experts were of the view that the recent steps for inducting them into politics are more in response to US pressure than a logical outcome of the country’s social development.

Dr Ibtisam Al Ketbi, Professor of Political Sciences in the UAE University, believes that the rapid introduction of woman into political life in the UAE came in response to US dictates.

Despite women’s political lag in the Gulf states such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, those in the UAE have made significant achievements by joining the cabinet and the council. However, they are still kept out of the Federal National Council, despite support at the highest political levels, pointed out Dr. Ibtisam.

“However, women’s political rights cannot be separated from human rights in general,” she said. “Political rights have not been given to nationals in any of the Gulf countries and, accordingly, they have not been granted to women,” she added.

“As well, if nationals in these countries pressed for political rights, women will raise similar calls,” observed Dr Ibtisam. “What matters is the general culture, education and awareness of the society as a whole. Women’s issues cannot be separated from the issue of the other members of the society.”

In addition to US influence, the Gulf countries are signatories to international agreements on women and human rights issues, said Aisha Sultan, a columnist in the Arabic daily Al Bayan. Consequently, these countries, including the UAE, are working towards meeting the terms of these agreements in order to avoid embarrassment with the international community. Otherwise, there will not be any progress in this regard, noted Aisha Sultan.

There had been some women’s political movements in the UAE. Unfortunately, the women leaders involved were disappointed now, according to her.

The country’s political leadership is now more aware than ever on the need to give women more political power, noted Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, Professor at the UAE University and the show’s moderator, disagreeing with the other speakers.

“Having women in politics is a natural progression to the general developments being witnessed in different fields of the UAE society,” he said.

“Women in the UAE are enjoying similar rights as men. They had those rights from the country’s early days.

“The UAE society has always been characterised by moderation. Unlike Kuwait’s, our society does not have an Islamic extremist segment. Islamic extremists, who have representation in the Kuwaiti Parliament, succeeded in blocking 21 attempts of Kuwaiti women for political power," Dr Abdullah said.

Despite the natural progress and the UAE’s healthy environment for women’s political power, they have not yet reached the FNC. The local emirate governments have failed to appoint women to the FNC for one reason or another, he added.

Dr Mohammed bin Hweiden, Professor at the UAE University, believed that the delay in women’s entry into politics in the country was because there has not been much demand. Women are not yet prepared to play a role in the political life, he said, stressing on the need for political education to women for increasing their awareness.

“Despite having societies and a federation entrusted with women’s developments, their tasks were just social and illiteracy eradication. These societies did not help women in developing political clout,” he said.

Although women are being marginalised in the political field, they formed 66 per cent of public sector employees and 75 per cent of the UAE university’s students, said Dr Hweiden. His opinion that women are not yet ready for political power found an echo in Dr. Ibtisam.

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