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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Kuwait set to give women the vote
Women's activist Rola Dashti
Activists such as Rola Dashti (left) have led the rights campaign
Parliament in Kuwait has given initial backing to a law allowing women to vote and compete for office in municipal council elections for the first time.

The bill must pass a second reading in two weeks and be signed by Kuwait's ruler before it can come into effect.

Twenty-six MPs voted for the law, three abstained and 20 voted against it.

Despite the support of Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Jaber al Ahmed al Sabah, past efforts to give women voting rights have been blocked by parliament.

Legislators representing Kuwaiti tribes have led the opposition, arguing that giving women greater political rights is against Islam and will undermine their domestic role.

Parliamentary ambitions

The bill on Tuesday was supported by 13 cabinet ministers and liberal and Shia Muslim MPs.

A date has not yet been set for the next municipal polls but they are expected to be held within six months.

Rola Dashti, a women's rights activist, described Tuesday's vote as a "first step".

"I hope women will run in these [municipal] elections, and we hope that the big step will be participation in parliament," she told the Associated Press news agency.

The municipal council organises civic affairs and contains 10 elected members and six who are appointed by the emir.

Under current Kuwaiti law, only men over the age of 21 who are not in the police or the military can vote.

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30 Mar 05 |  Country profiles
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Kuwait hastens women's vote bill
07 Mar 05 |  Middle East

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