Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Women's Rights in Oman pt. I

I love Oman, and have applied to become an Omani citizen... and I have no hesitation towards doing this. The passport I currently hold is Canadian, and I am aware, of the rights I am risking, changing my nationality. But the change in nationality is essential if I want the words I am to say to have any weight---an outsider can complain and say what needs to change, but only a citizen has the right to demand that change. I am a hypocrite otherwise, to speak about Omani women and what they want, what they tell me they want, and ask the government for something. I understand my decision and stand by it. I believe in the noble intentions of many in government (okay---not all---but the Canadian government was not all that great either while I lived there...;) and will support them towards strengthening and ammending the laws already in place towards women's rights in Oman.

That said, as female Omani citizen blogger Dhofari Gucci wrote in this post http://dhofarigucci.blogspot.com/2010/03/discrimination-against-women-in-dhofar.html quite a long while ago about the subject, there are legal, constitutional, and societal reforms that have to take place to present us in Oman with gender equality. Being married into an Omani family, having mostly-Omani friends and social aquaintences, I also hear things that make my blood boil. Stories of things that should never happen in Oman, considering what Oman's laws actually do claim to protect, and HM Sultan Qaboos' own statements about guaranteeing human rights in regards to dignity, liberty and independence, and how the success of Oman as a nation depends equally on actions {political, economic, and social} of both men and women in deciding and building society.

In February 1996, Oman ratified the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW). Oman's Basic Law, drafted in 1996, and used as a sort of constituion in Oman, stated in article 17 that Omani citizens are not to be discrimiated against based upon "gender, origin, colour, language, religion, sect, domicile, or social status." Article 12 further guarantees equal justice, and equal oppurtunity. Further, Oman instituted a new law on evidence, which stipulates that the testimony of men and women in court is now equal most situations (excepting Shariah considerations). This, for your reference, dear readers, is Law No. 63 of 2008. {for my own reference: Kelly, S. (2009). Recent gains and new opportunities for women’s rights in the Gulf Arab states. Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Gulf Edition.}

When it comes to protection of Omani citizens based on religion, sect, domicile, social status, language, origin, colour, and even equal oppurtunity, I have few complaints. I feel citizens are protected in general about slander, or insults, or discrimination on the above outlined grounds.  When it comes to equal oppurtunity, Oman has female Ministers, Shura Council members, and a female workforce whose legal rights are protected by law. Oman's legal system does not require women to be obedient to men and "it provides women with the explicit right to work outside the home" {for my own reference: pg.343-342 Kelly, S., & Breslin, J. (2010). Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.}.

Further, Oman's Ministry of National Economy has started to issue booklets to make Omani women aware of their rights to work, and as employees in Oman, to own property, to open and close their own business files... ect... or attend educational training.

Where inequality or discrimination can still be felt, however, is on the subjects of gender and equal justice.

GENDER DISCRIMINATION

The biggest inequality between Omani women and men is in regards to citizenship. In none of the Gulf countries (Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia) do women enjoy the same citizenship and nationality rights as men, which can carry serious consequences for the choice of a marriage partner. "Under such laws, a man can marry a foreign woman with the knowledge that his spouse can become a citizen and receive the associated benefits. By contrast, a woman who marries a foreigner cannot pass her citizenship to her spouse or her children. Children from such marriages must acquire special residency permits, renewable annually, in order to attend public school, qualify for university scholarships, and find employment.” {reference: pg. 7 Kelly, S. (2009). Recent gains and new opportunities for women’s rights in the Gulf Arab states. Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Gulf Edition.}. In Oman, the children's residency must be renewed every two years.

EQUAL JUSTICE

Before I get into discrepencies and discrimination based on sex in Omani law, I should describe Oman's legal system, and stress some of the benefits it has (compared to...well, Saudi).
Oman’s courts are organized into three tiers: the courts of first instance, the courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. Each court has a department of Shariah within them that deals with personal status law (family law). Oman's personal status law has been unofficially translated from Arabic by the Oregan Distract Attourney's Office (USA) which I will link to here for the reference of my readers: http://odaa.oregon.gov/events/personal_status_law_english_sharia_law.pdf.
 
Under the personal status law Omani women have some key rights:
1.) Omani women may sue for divorce (conditions apply) 
2.) Omani women may refuse potential marriage partners selected by their family
3.) A marriage they were forced into by their family but did not desire can be annulled even if consumated
4.) Omani women can choose their own marriage partner and sign their own marriage contract, although, to make their marriage legally valid a guardian must preside over the registration of the marriage contract. If a guardian is not present, or objects to the marriage on grounds not accordance with the law, the judge may sign the contract. in place of the guardian. This is in accordance with articles 9&10 of the personal status law. {Additionally, I personally got a fatwa from the Grand Muft (the Ibadhi religious authority in Oman) ----that since marrying a non-Omani is illegal, and since a judge would not preside over my marriage contract, that the Imam who married me could act as my guardian, and our signatures in this case would be sufficient {Shiekh Ahmed Khalili}.
5.) Omani women may obtain identification and passports (although apparently married women do need their husband's written permission by law to apply for a passport----umarried-no).
6.) Omani women have freedom of movement, in they can drive or travel in-country and abroad without permission provided they have obtained an id card and a passport.
7.) Having obtained the age of maturity, 18, Omani women may own property, vote, and live independently. However...
 
 
Throughout the region, however, the prevailing patriarchal attitudes, prejudice, and traditional leanings of male judges, lawyers, and court officials (and in my personal opinion, female staff as well, who are generally uninformed of the full legal rights of Omani women-OPNO)—as well as the lack of an independent judiciary that is capable of upholding basic rights despite political or societal pressure—threaten to undermine these new legal protections. Unless effective complaint mechanisms are in place and the appropriate court personnel are trained to apply justice in a gender-blind manner, the new laws will not achieve the desired effect. Moreover, unless the judicial system of each country becomes more independent, rigorous, and professional, women of high social standing will continue to have better access to justice than poor women...” {for my own reference: pg. 8 Kelly, S. (2009). Recent gains and new opportunities for women’s rights in the Gulf Arab states. Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Gulf Edition.}

Another issue, is filing of complaints. In Oman, many Omani women are not aware of their full legal rights and entitlements, or the procedures or places the Omani government has in place to protect their rights. Taking the wrong step in the process of steps for filing for protection from your Omani family or spouse with the Omani government, for instance, could mean being returned to where you escaped from, possible harm, and even death (....some Dhofari girls told me horror stories about one of their cousins).

Of course, it is purely socially, and not a fault on the part of the Omani government, that many women feel they cannot discuss their personal situation without damaging the family honor or their own reputation, but my personal experience has been, that court and police personnal are not properly trained or aware of the law enough to apply justice in regards to the protection of the female population of the Sultanate's citizens.
I totally agree with Kelly's (2009)  statement that "Consequently, abused women rarely attempt to file complaints with the police. When they do choose to seek police protection, they frequently encounter officers who are reluctant to get involved in what is perceived as a family matter and who encourage reconciliation rather than legal action.” Pg.5
 
I've personally been through this in Oman. Let me example two cases out of four for you: 
 
OPNO: "Yes, Mr. Omani-Police-Officer-Sir, my mother first choked me, and then when I escaped, she locked all the doors in the house, and tried to stab me with a knife."
 
MR. OMANI-POLICE-OFFICER: "Maybe you were not being as patient or as gentle as a Muslim should be with your mother. In Islam, heaven is under the feet of your mother. Maybe you should say sorry and she will accept and you will go home and be happy."
 
OPNO: "."
 
Or
 
OMANI WOMAN, 38 yrs: "But my father locked me up for six months, took away my passport and phone, threatened to beat me, shut down my business...."
 
MRS. ROP-WOMEN'S-PROTECTION-BUREAU-OFFICER: "But yani, it is our culture. We respect our parents. Maybe he wants the best for you? You should think about going home." 
 
Serriously, yes.
 
“In the UAE, the first government-sponsored shelter for victims of domestic violence opened in Dubai in 2007 under the auspices of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children. The shelter has a residential capacity, offers legal assistance for the victims, and provides training for the police on how to handle domestic violence cases. While this is a sign of progress, as it indicates an official acknowledgment that the problem exists, a single shelter is grossly inadequate for the needs of the emirate and the entire country.” Pg. 5 (Kelly, 2009). Oman officially has no such training in place, although there is a branch of ROP that offer's protection to Omani women fleeing for their safety, their lives, or trying to protect their legal rights. Again, however, I have seen this department return women with mere promises of the woman's family to not hurt her and to give her, her rights.
 
This leaves me aghast. This is Oman, not Saudi Arabia (no offense awesome Saudis that I know). We do not tell women to forget their legal entitlements, their personal safety, and "go home" to the family or husband that has threatened them with physical harm or death.
 
We don't do that----or we are not supposed to. We are Oman. We are different.
 
-----So why is that difference not helping the women who desperately need it through the laws and departments are in place to help such citizens of the Sultanate?
 
What about the Omani Women's Association? people ask me that:----the OWA, which is supervised by the Ministry of Social Development, does not address issues such as civil and political rights, or women's autonomy and security, although occasionally you meet a meaningful woman there that directs another Omani woman in trouble towards sound legal advice and correct procedure for her particular grievance. most NGOs in Oman do not deal with running a woman's shelter, or providing legal advice or procedural direction. If you know anything towards those ends, link me up here in our comments box, please.
 
I have more to write, but not today. All my wishes and strength and prayers out there to the women I know struggling, and those I don't know. Thanks be to Allah, and all the people who helped me along the way, to know, and obtain my rights (even not as citizen), and protected me as if I were family. Many awesome people in this beautiful country. It makes me cry almost, to think back on them, and yet how far there is to go in terms of making things just, clear, and fair...


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

human rights?
children's rights and protections?
a fair and just legal system?


You are clearly disillusioned with reality and fantasy.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anonymous: this post was only about women's rights.

Human rights, and children's rights are totally different subjects.

Concerning fair and just---the post says there is a lot of room for improvement... I don't know, do you read?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

And to future commentators: this particular post is only about female citizens of Oman. There are a lot more issues concerning women's rights for expatriate women in the Sultanate. I consider than under human rights, however...

Muscat Ladies Club said...

How did you apply for an Omani passport when your marriage to your husband isn't recognized ? Good try 'Aisha' but many of the expat women here do know your real story and history so like Anon. stated it's just delusions and fantasy. But keep blogging because it's a good read for when we are bored.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Muscat Ladies Club: As far as I know, no such club existed {L or A or one of your friends none of you who live in Oman--Saudi, Canada and whoever knows whatever other GCC countyr but not Oman}, and for your information, my permission came through the courts {ask my cowife or husband if you KNOW me,---I choose not to know you girls}. I got it shortly after L left. Interior Ministry sent it to the courts... Courts sent it to the Inteiror Ministry... no fine, no nothing. Took bloody forever, but yeah... And I could apply for an Omani passport as I have lived in the country the years required to do so. Being married helps the application but... it isn't the whole basis. I don't know, what your problem is, but the post isn't about me per say... it is about what is lacking in women's rights for Omani citizens...

The anon commentator was complaining that this post didn't mention human rights or children's rights... but then, they couldn't read. I wouldn't call that delusional, just poor reading skills.

Peace out haters...

Surprised said...

Reading the comments you are one unhappy, angry female

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Dear Surprised: I an angry about justifiable things, although my actual anger is small (and time for thinking on even smaller) cowardly anonymous comentators talking about my personal life as if they know anything about it when they don't, someone calling me dillusional because they didn't read what the post was about at all...

The point of the post, isn't me, it is about women's rights for Omani citizens. I am angry if Oman cannot protect its female citizens when they have laws to do so but they don't enforce them... Isn't that something to be angry or passionate about? Of course, my anger towards human rights in Oman is something totally different, and I didn't post on that. If you want me to be like, laddy da, anonymous commentators, care about your personal vendetta against me and write lies or just plain wrong things, instead of, I don't know, caring about larger issues, like, I don't women's rights or something else...

I am surprised at your comment.

Anonymous said...

As a Scandinavian I am very surprised how you are met by your Omani fellows. Thought that peace-ful folks were much more tolerant, kind and respectful. In Sweden feminists are still a threat, though Sweden is the feminist´s Saudi Arabia, as Julian Assange said. :) Those who are threatening others by insults are always scared, have always been.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Dear Anonymous Scandanavian: The sad thing is, the commentators aren't Omani. They are Western girls (Canadian, British, American) not Arab at all, living in Canada or Saudi Arabia (maybe they are firends of the girls living in UAE or Bahrain who didn't know me or what I've actually done AT ALL). They dislike me because I told them that independence (financial) would help them help themselves, and apparently that made them think that I think I am better than them, which wasn't the case at all. Plus, I hit a girl who was in my house swearing at me, who had gossiped about me, and tried to ruin my relationship with my father and lied, and gossiped about those other girls as well who now hate me and think that everything bad said about them came from me. Human rights, and caring for Omani women had nothing to do with it, or them being pro- anti-feminist.

Maybe the first commentator? but not the others, was going on anything at all about this post or women's rights in Oman.

Their personal dislike comes from their own issues and insecurities not the post so... I don't know why they even bother to read my blog except, as they said, they are bored in their own lives occasionally. I don't know. I have mostly forgiven or forgotten about them. But i have this silly habit of explaining myself, even to people who don't care, so maybe that's why? If I spend time on them in comments they feel, {good}? I dunno.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Dear Anonymous Scandanavian: The sad thing is, the commentators aren't Omani. They are Western girls (Canadian, British, American) not Arab at all, living in Canada or Saudi Arabia (maybe they are firends of the girls living in UAE or Bahrain who didn't know me or what I've actually done AT ALL). They dislike me because I told them that independence (financial) would help them help themselves, and apparently that made them think that I think I am better than them, which wasn't the case at all. Plus, I hit a girl who was in my house swearing at me, who had gossiped about me, and tried to ruin my relationship with my father and lied, and gossiped about those other girls as well who now hate me and think that everything bad said about them came from me. Human rights, and caring for Omani women had nothing to do with it, or them being pro- anti-feminist.

Maybe the first commentator? but not the others, was going on anything at all about this post or women's rights in Oman.

Their personal dislike comes from their own issues and insecurities not the post so... I don't know why they even bother to read my blog except, as they said, they are bored in their own lives occasionally. I don't know. I have mostly forgiven or forgotten about them. But i have this silly habit of explaining myself, even to people who don't care, so maybe that's why? If I spend time on them in comments they feel, {good}? I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Hypothetically and somewhat sarcastically speaking: Expats would then have to face another torturing new Omanisation law if women start protesting like the popular events of the "Arab Awakening" as it was titled. Then the public and private sectors will be forced to add women to the companies too. Royal Decree number 5 over 26. Article 5 states that the Ratio of both genders in a company must be 12/18. Article 6 states that fines for not complying are as follows.

Anonymous said...

Just to note, I'm a different Anonymous from that hater one :) I choose not to reveal details of myself at this time and thank you for providing that option. As a guy, all i have to do is think about my mother and what you were saying exactly match up word for word. So there are people that understand what you are saying although maybe its also because "Mixed Omanis" are a minority within the population. Thanks again for keeping us informed and giving us a bit of hope and wish you more successful posts like this.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Hypothetical and sarcastic Omani: lol, yeah, that's true.

Omanisation is sooooooooooooooooo being done wrong... but that's another issue entirely.