Saturday, June 24, 2006

Women run for office in Kuwait

After years of demonstrations and agitation (one demo of 2005 is shown above), women are not only voting in the June 29th election in Kuwait, but running for parliament. (Correction: women who are Kuwaiti citizens are voting; all those guest workers, male and female who make the place run, still have no political rights.)

Interestingly, Kuwait is hardly alone in the Middle East in granting female suffrage. Today's Globe and Mail not only has an article on Kuwaiti developments, but a summary of female political rights in other countries in the region.

Whether elections mean anything is a different matter, but that concern isn't restricted to any single country, region or culture.

For more on female suffrage, you might want to look at -- I don't know what! The Globe and Mail used Freedom House information, but it's not easy to find there. You'd think there would be a good, reliable summary somewhere on the Web, but I'm having trouble finding one. I don't trust this. The idea that women had the right to run for office in the USA by virtue of the Constitution in 1788 strikes me as a particularly ahistorical one.

Any help appreciated.

Freedom House, I note, has an interesting new publication, available online, called How Freedom is Won: From Civic Struggle to Durable Democracy (a PDF file). Summary: it's not just elections. But then, Tom Paine said that.

2 comments:

  1. Dr. Barbara Smith, now a Nipissing University professor, said in one of her lectures that women in the United States of America had the right to run for office extremely early because of the constitution but were not able to vote until much later so it did not really mean anything. I found it extremely interesting that women had such legal rights so early but could not actually use them until so much later. I am sure that Dr. Smith would be able to provide a good source, but I am afraid that I do not recall the one she mentioned in class.

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  2. I hope Professor Smith will comment later.

    I am aware that in the early 19th century women in some North American jurisdictions -- Quebec and New Jersey come to mind -- were able to vote if they had enough property, just like men. But men objected and took away that right. This was at the same time that universal male suffrage was making progress across North America. Voting no longer was seen as a property right but as the right of all men. At least all white men.

    What I don't know, and doubt, is whether anyone thought the US Constitution in its early days gave women the right to vote. Voting in US elections back then was a matter of having the franchise in your particular state. There was no "national franchise" as in Canada today. I'm not sure there is now, though the Constitution does now lay down some age rules and some non-discrimination rules.

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