KUWAIT CITY (Agencies): A Kuwaiti parliamentary panel Sunday approved landmark draft legislation that grants a host of benefits to women in the oil-rich Gulf state, the head of the Women's Affairs Committee said. MP Saleh Ashour said the bill allows women to seek government housing on a par with men, increases paid leave to 70 days from a current 40 and grants maternity leave for up to two years. The legislation must be passed by parliament and signed by the HH Amir to become effective. Ashour expected the bill to be debated in the house in March or April.
Under Kuwaiti law, only male citizens who are married can apply for a government house. The new bill gives the same right to Kuwaiti women who are divorced, widowed or married to foreigners. The bill also obliges the government to pay monthly assistance of $865 to Kuwaiti women who are married, have children but don't have a job. Kuwaiti women took part in parliamentary elections for the first time in June, one year after they were granted full political rights following a struggle lasting four decades. Twenty-eight women candidates contested the elections but none of them won. The 16-member Kuwaiti cabinet includes one woman minister.
Ashour said the amendments also called for specifying the child raising and childhood leave at six months with full salary, six months with half salary and one year with a quarter salary.
He said the committee also approved granting the woman a full salary in the case she was accompanying a sick relative for six months after consent has been obtained from the General Medical Council to be extended for an additional six month period with half salary without affecting her periodical holidays. The committee also approved granting the husband a holiday with full salary in the case he is accompanying his wife or in the case she is studying or working abroad.