Women in Oman still held back by unequal rights

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Progress on strengthening women’s rights in Oman, and in the Arab world generally, is very slow compared with other human rights issues.

Women in Oman still face many more restrictions than men, since the country’s laws, based on Sharia law, give men a higher status and more rights than women:

  • Article 17 of Oman’s Basic Statute (constitution) prohibits gender-based discrimination, but there are parts of laws like the Personal Status Law and the Omani Penal Code that violate women’s rights.
  • Although Article 7 of the Personal Status Law sets the minimum age for marriage at 18, Article 10 of the same law allows judges to authorise the marriage of underage girls if this is deemed to be in their best interests.
  • Women, incidentally, are not allowed to work as judges.
  • A man has the right to be married to four women at a time, according to the Personal Status Law, while a woman’s duties to her husband include obeying his wishes. 
  • Since women have a duty to obey their husbands’ wishes there is no statutory punishment for, or even legal definition of, marital rape in Oman.
  • At boarding schools for girls the students’ movements are restricted.  Girls are not allowed in or out without permission from a legal guardian – and according to the Personal Status Law, guardians have to be male.
  • Girls and young women have no protection from domestic violence in Oman.
  • Article 44 of the Omani Penal Code even states that an act of violence toward an underage child “shall not be deemed a crime” so long as it is “committed in good faith”.
  • Although Oman signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2006, it maintains reservations to a number of its provisions
  • There are many obstacles and legal complications for an Omani woman marrying a non-Omani man, whereas the process for Omani men to marry non-Omani women is much easier.
  • Men have the right to divorce their wives at any time without needing to give a reason, while women have to provide some justification for wanting a divorce, such as the husband being absent for a specified period of time
  • All these complications regarding marriage, divorce and inheritance are either derived from the provisions of Sharia law or else arise out of traditional customs and practices.
  • The laws of Oman, and those responsible for them, do not respect women’s rights and continue to violate them

Join us in helping to strengthen women’s rights in Oman.  Send us examples of the main laws containing violations of women’s rights that should be abolished or amended.