Bahrain: Women Face Many Barriers to Justice
Monday, August 2, 2010 1:10 PM

According to the Bahrain Women Union (BWU), women often fall victim to unfair court rulings involving family law matters such as divorce, inheritance, alimony and child custody disputes because they do not know their rights under Shari'a, or Islamic law. The BWU is attempting to rectify the situation by providing free legal counseling to women.

Since its inception in 2008, the legal office of the BWU has received no less than four calls every day. Yet legal counseling is only part of the solution. According to a family counselor at the BWU, many clients face barriers such as low levels of literacy and poverty.

Additionally, Bahrain’s mixed legal system makes it more difficult for some women to receive a fair ruling than others. Family law in Bahrain falls under Shari’a law, which tends to be uncodified, and the legal system further recognizes separate Sunni and Shi’ite jurisdictions. While the Sunni Muslim community adopted a Family Law which spells out how to handle family disputes, the Shi'ite community did not. Consequently, Shia women are sometimes subject to arbitrary rulings.

Bahraini activists argue that without a unified Family Law, Shia women will continue to encounter discrimination and the judicial process will continue to be hampered by delays.

Compiled from: Mohammed, Basma, Legal support for embattled wives, Gulf Daily News (24 July 2010).