The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Kuwait

By Vexen Crabtree 2018

#equality #freedom #human_rights #islam #kuwait #politics #tolerance #yemen

Kuwait
State of Kuwait

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index89th best
CapitalKuwait
Land Area 17 820km21
LocationAsia, The Middle East
Population4.1m2
Life Expectancy74.55yrs (2017)3
GNI$76 075 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesKW, KWT, 4145
Internet Domain.kw6
CurrencyDinar (KWD)7
Telephone+9658

Kuwait is very poor at ensuring human rights and freedom compared to the rest of the world, and it has cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Kuwait does better than average when it comes to opposing gender inequality9 and in supporting press freedom10. It is one of the few Gulf states that constructively allows Human Rights Watch to engage directly in making observations. But unfortunately Kuwait gets most other things wrong. It does worse than average for commentary in Human Rights Watch reports11 (still good for Asia), speed of uptake of HR treaties12, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms13 and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights14. And finally, it falls into the worst 20 in its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice15 (amongst the worst in Asia) and in LGBT equality16 (amongst the worst in Asia). Native Bidun peoples are oppressed and abused17. Free speech is overly restricted and dissenters and political opponents are frequently harassed and persecuted, often in the name of national security17. Despite making some positive reforms, more needs to be done to protect migrant workers (who make up 2/3 of the population) against abuse and forced labour17. Kuwait does not accept the concept of freedom of belief and religious persecution is rife18; anyone convicted of insulting Islam cannot run for office nor vote17. Male homosexuality is punishable by up to seven years in prison or expulsion17. Kuwait has participated in coalition battles in Yemen, and has possibly been involved in some attacks which constituted serious war crimes there17.


1. Kuwait's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)19,20
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank19,20
1Denmark9.7
2Sweden10.0
3Norway16.1
...
124Mozambique103.9
125Gabon104.0
126Cambodia104.1
127Kuwait104.3
128Togo104.8
129Bahrain106.9
130Timor-Leste (E. Timor)107.7
131Indonesia107.7
132Sierra Leone109.6
World Avg89.8
q=199.

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Denmark, Sweden and Norway19. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are Tuvalu, The Solomon Islands and Palestine19.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice and LGBT equality. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe19, whereas the worst are Micronesia, Melanesia and Australasia19.

2. Human Rights & Tolerance Data Sets

Free speech is overly restricted and dissenters and political opponents are often harassed and persecuted, often in the name of national security17.

Kuwaiti authorities have invoked several provisions in the constitution, penal code, Printing and Publication Law, Misuse of Telephone Communications and Bugging Devices Law, Public Gatherings Law, and National Unity Law to prosecute journalists, politicians, and activists for criticizing the emir, the government, religion, and rulers of neighboring countries in blogs or on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. [...]

The Cybercrime Law, which went into effect in 2016, includes far-reaching restrictions on internet-based speech, such as prison sentences, and fines for insulting religion, religious figures, and the emir.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments

#human_rights

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)11
Pos.Higher is better
Score11
1UK9
2France9
3Germany9
...
74Thailand-4
75Angola-4
76Kyrgyzstan-4
77Kuwait-4
78Azerbaijan-5
79China-5
80Cambodia-5
81Uganda-5
World Avg-1.9
q=123.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR

#human_rights

Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)14
Pos.Higher is better
Treaties14
1Argentina24
2Chile23
3Costa Rica23
...
142Israel12
143Angola12
144Suriname12
145Kuwait12
146Trinidad & Tobago12
147Lebanon12
148Thailand11
149Barbados11
World Avg15.1
q=194.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag (2019)12
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Yrs/Treaty12
1Ecuador2.15
2Uruguay2.25
3Tunisia3.65
...
96Lebanon10.14
97Afghanistan10.23
98Dominican Rep.10.24
99Kuwait10.36
100Laos10.53
101Cambodia10.56
102Ghana10.64
103Croatia10.65
World Avg10.02
q=195.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)13
Pos.Lower is better
Rank13
1Hong Kong1
2Switzerland2
3New Zealand3
...
111Ukraine111
112Senegal111
113Colombia111
114Kuwait111
115Malaysia115
116Russia115
117Qatar117
118UAE118
World Avg79.7
q=159.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)21

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom (2013)10
Pos.Lower is better10
1Finland638
2Netherlands648
3Norway652
...
73Armenia2804
74Malawi2818
75Congo, (Brazzaville)2820
76Kuwait2828
77Nicaragua2831
78Benin2833
79Dominican Rep.2834
80Lesotho2836
World Avg3249
q=178.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted".

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Slavery (2018)22
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims22
1Japan0.03
2Canada0.05
3Taiwan0.05
...
10USA0.13
11Argentina0.13
12Hong Kong0.14
13Kuwait0.15
14Luxembourg0.15
15Qatar0.15
16Denmark0.16
17Paraguay0.16
World Avg0.65
q=167.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory23. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends24. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life25. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves26.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery27. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity28. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.29. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi22, Eritrea22, Indonesia30) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery31.

Although Kuwait made some positive reforms in 2017, more needs to be done to protect migrant workers against abuse and forced labour17. Such workers make up 2/3 of the entire population17.

3. Gender Equality Data Sets

Kuwait has made some steps towards ending gender inequality but much more needs to be done.

Kuwaiti personal status law, which applies to Sunni Muslims who make up most Kuwaitis, discriminates against women. For example, some women require a male guardian to conclude their marriage contracts; women must apply to the courts for a divorce on limited grounds unlike men who can unilaterally divorce their wives; and women can lose custody of their children if they remarry someone outside the family. Men can marry up to four wives, without the permission or knowledge of the other wife or wives. A man can prohibit his wife from working if it is deemed to negatively affect the family interests. The rules that apply to Shia Muslims also discriminate against women.

Kuwait has no laws prohibiting domestic violence or marital rape.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

See:

3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality (2015)9
Pos.Lower is better9
1Switzerland0.04
2Denmark0.04
3Netherlands0.04
...
67Trinidad & Tobago0.32
68Azerbaijan0.33
69Turkey0.33
70Kuwait0.33
71Vietnam0.34
72Romania0.34
73Mexico0.35
74St Lucia0.35
World Avg0.36
q=159.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

3.2. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Pos.Lower is better
Year
1New Zealand1893
2Australia1902
3Finland1906
...
182Samoa1990
183Kazakhstan1993
184Moldova1994
185Oman1994
186Qatar2003
187Kuwait2005
188Saudi Arabia0
189Vatican City0
World Avg1930
q=189.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

4. Prejudice Data Sets

4.1. Anti-Semite Opinions

#antisemitism #christianity #germany #indonesia #israel #jordan #judaism #laos #morocco #netherlands #pakistan #philippines #religion #religious_violence #saudi_arabia #spain #sweden #turkey #UK #vietnam

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)15
Pos.Lower is better
%15
1Laos0
2Philippines3
3Sweden4
...
93UAE80
94Jordan81
95Bahrain81
96Kuwait82
97Tunisia86
98Algeria87
99Libya87
100Yemen88
World Avg36.8
q=101.

Anti-Semitism is the world given to irrational racism against Jews. It is not the same as anti-Judaism (involving arguments against the religion) nor the same as anti-Zionism (arguments against Israel). In history, influential Christian theologians concocted the arguments against Jews that led, very early on, to widespread Christian action against Jews32,33,34,35. As Christianity rose to power in the West and presided over the Dark Ages, there were widespread violent outbursts against Jews of the most persistent and horrible kind. The Crusades were frequently aimed at them and the feared Spanish Inquisition paid Jews particular attention. The horror of the holocaust instigated by German Nazis in the 1940s was followed (finally) by the era of European human rights and a movement against racism in general.

The places that are the least anti-Semitical are a few countries of south-east Asia (Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam) and some of the secular liberal democracies of Europe (Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK). The worst countries for antisemitism are Islamic states of the Middle East36, which are undergoing their own Dark Age. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey see the most oppressive and violent actions towards Jews37,38. Jews in Muslim countries face a host of restrictions and "ceaseless humiliation and regular pogroms"39. In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia reported on violent anti-Jew crimes in the EU and found that that largest group of perpetrators were young Muslim males40.

4.2. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

Same-sex relations between men can bring up to seven years in prison17, giving official sanction to prejudice and invasion of privacy. Being suspected of being gay in Kuwait is enough to warrant forced exportation - 76 fell victim to this in 2017 alone17.

LGBT Equality (2017)16
Pos.Higher is better
Score16
1Netherlands103
2Belgium90
3Sweden86
...
180Tuvalu-30
181Mauritania-32
182UAE-34
183Kuwait-37
184Algeria-37
185Tunisia-39
186Guinea-39
187Cameroon-39
World Avg12.6
q=196.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence41. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws42. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries41. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#bahrain #islam #kuwait #saudi_arabia

Kuwait does not accept the concept of freedom of belief and sociologists Grim & Finke place Kuwait into the worst category for religious persecution, along with just 13 other countries18. Since 2016 anyone convicted of blasphemy against Islam cannot run for office, nor vote17, therefore routinely discriminating against people based on their beliefs.

When it comes to religious freedom and persecution, sociologists Grim & Finke place Kuwait into the worst category, along with just 13 other countries. In this category, severe restrictions on religious freedom and freedom of belief stem simultaneously from top-down pressure from government and institutionalized religion, and from bottom-up grassroots movements that often go even further than the government in harassing those who do not believe the right things (2011)43. The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report in 2012 entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)44, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Kuwait states:

The Constitution of Kuwait makes Islam the state religion, and Sharia a primary source of legislation, making blasphemy illegal. The 1961 Press and Publications Law prohibits the publication of any material that attacks religions or incites persons to commit crimes, create hatred, or spread dissension.

Cases of Discrimination

Hamad Al-Naqi is a Shia Muslim who in February and March 2012 allegedly made a series of posts on Twitter critical of the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the Prophet Muhammad, his wife Aisha, and his followers. Several members of the National Assembly of Kuwait called for his death. Al-Naqi pled not guilty, arguing that he had not posted the messages, and that his account had been hacked. In June 2012, Al-Naqi was found guilty of "insulting the Prophet, the Prophet's wife and companions, mocking Islam, provoking sectarian tensions, insulting the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and misusing his mobile phone to spread the comments" and sentenced to ten years in prison. Al-Naqi was attacked within weeks of entering prison and has been put in solitary confinement for safety reasons.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)44