KUWAIT: The Abolish 153 campaign held a press conference at the Kuwait Society for Human Rights on Saturday to announce the findings of a national survey to gauge public opinion on violence against women.

The survey was conducted by Dr Justin Gengler, Program Director of the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) at Qatar University, and Abolish 153 member Dr Alanoud Al- Sharekh.

Other Abolish 153 members including Sheikha Lulu Al-Sabah, Sundus Hamza, Sheikha Al- Nafisi and Amira Behbehani were among the speakers who answered queries.

The survey was conducted on more than 1,000 people representing a wide spectrum of the Kuwaiti society. At the start of the conference, Sharekh reported that according to a medical study in 2012, domestic violence cases received at Kuwait hospitals made up between 54 to 79 percent of all emergency cases.

“In 2013, Abdul Aziz Al-Mishari, the mayor of Yarmouk, observed that statistics issued by the ministry of education included approximately 30,000 cases of violence in Kuwaiti schools. Ten thousand of these cases were observed in the elementary sections,” said Sharekh.

In addition, a brief report issued by the ministry of state for youth affairs in 2014 shows that the violence among Kuwaiti youth is on an alarming rise. “These statistics show that the family is a principal cause,” added Dr Sharesh.

Abolish 153 seeks to scrap article 153 of the Kuwaiti penal code which stipulates that a man who is surprised to find his mother, wife, sister or daughter in the act of adultery and kills them is punished by either a KD 14 fine or no more than three years in prison.

Dr Gengler mentioned that the research focuses on the existence of the law, the extent of its acceptance and rejection, plus the general view about violence against women and honor killings. It is the first of its kind in Kuwait and the Gulf states. The survey’s results indicate that most Kuwaitis are not aware of the existence of this legal text, and according to the survey, a majority is in opposition to this article.

Members of the board of directors and the Director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights Mohammed Al-Humaidi spoke about a lack of shelters for battered women in Kuwait. “There are people that will judge a woman as notorious if she resorts to these shelters, no matter the reasons or motivations. The social stigma on these women must change. However, increasing awareness of the role of shelters in Kuwait needs to start by correcting society’s perception of them. Article 153 can be exploited by men, and has to be abolished by the National Assembly or challenged in the constitutional court. According to Article 7 of the constitution of Kuwait, people are equal in rights and duties. Justice is guaranteed, so why don’t women have the same rights?” he asked.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that earlier this year, a query was submitted by MP Salah Ashour, the head of women and family committee at the Assembly, to the minister of justice on the constitutionality of Article 153.

By Athoob Al-Shuaibi