International Women’s Day, 8 March – An Omani agenda


The United Nations has designated 8 March as an International Women’s Day.[1] The Omani Centre for Human Rights (OCHR) takes this occasion to condemn rights violations suffered by women and girls in Oman, and to call on the Omani government to take serious and urgent steps to improve various legal and social aspects of the situation of Omani women.

In this report the OCHR highlights the violations of their rights suffered by women in the Sultanate of Oman, and affirms the need to protect women’s rights and utilise young women’s talents, rather than waste them by denying their fundamental rights as first-class citizens and human beings.

  • There is still no government definition of violence against women. Women are subjected to physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence, while the legal institutions of the state refuse to recognise abuses or protect women against them. There is no law against domestic violence, and no telephone helpline or shelters for victims’ protection.
  • Female genital mutation (FGM), or circumcision, is criminalised in law, but the law is doing nothing to end this gross abuse that starts in infancy and has a lifelong impact on its victims. The OCHR again calls on the government to regulate religious discourse in line with FGM being a crime in law, and to work to raise social awareness of how dangerous it is, and why it constitutes a gross human rights violation.
  • Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are violated, and abortion is outlawed. Women come under social pressure in the absence of legal protection for their right to choose whether or not to have a child, regardless of the reasons for their pregnancy, which may result from other violations such as rape.
  • There is no guarantee of freedom of movement for a large swathe of Omani women, ranging from university students living under the “permissions” system to women and girls trapped inside the home by the social traditions and patriarchal authority that are widespread in Omani society yet completely ignored by the Omani government.
  • Marital rape is not recognised in law, and there are no mechanisms to protect women and girls from sexual violence. Indeed, there are no comprehensive data to show the risk and incidence of crimes of rape, marital rape and sexual harassment.
  • The marriage of underage girls is permitted if a judge considers it in their best interests, according to Article 10 of the Personal Status Law.
  • To date, no woman has been allowed to take up the post of judge, which is part of a larger problem of women’s exclusion from influential and senior political positions of state. This unbalanced situation shows a need for greater representation of Omani woman.
  • While both men and women suffer violations of their rights when it comes to marrying non-Omani citizens, Omani women face even greater difficulties than Omani men, and have to meet extra conditions: an Omani woman is prohibited from marrying without the consent of her male guardian, whereas a man does not face this requirement.
  • Omani women are not afforded the legal right to pass their nationality on to their children. Royal Decree 38/2014 introduced strict laws making this difficult, if not impossible.
  • Women are not afforded the legal right to divorce their husbands. In court, women are often treated harshly and subjected to verbal insults on the part of judges, in line with the stigma attaching to divorce within society. The legal and social obstacles to divorce mean that many women and their children continue to suffer in a toxic environment without protection or emotional or practical support.
  • A woman is not deemed to be her children’s guardian, even if the father is absent or she is the family’s main breadwinner. The Personal Status Laws require a guardian to be male, in a clear case of gender-based discrimination and a violation of women’s rights. As a result, mothers are unable to obtain official documents for their children, such as passports and identity cards, except with the father’s authorisation. They may also be denied custody of their children in the event of divorce.
  • The unified university admissions system discriminates against female students and restricts their chances of getting higher education places appropriate to their qualifications, since the quotas of places allocated to each sex take no account of students’ academic scores, making the competition unfair and frustrating for female students.
  • Women are not allowed to apply for many jobs where applicants are required to be male. The government, meanwhile, is doing nothing to prevent discrimination against women in the workplace.
  • The government does not respect the right to free speech. There have been several occasions where it has clamped down on feminist campaigns, subjected women’s rights activists to legal harassment, and tried to limit their influence on social media.

In conclusion, Omani lawmakers must understand, first of all, that the country cannot develop without stamping out all forms of gender-based discrimination; and secondly, that suppressing women’s demands for their rights not only is a human rights violation but also can only lead to further alienation and opposition, and indeed stoke such resistance. The Omani government would do better to abandon its traditional approach and resolve to join the club of civil, fair and just societies.



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