Oman at the Forefront of the Furthermost Countries in Closing the Gender Gap, According to The 2022 World Economic Forum’s Report
According to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2022”, it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap and achieve gender parity.
The report studied the state of gender parity in individual countries according to four measures: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.
It ranked Oman 139th out of the 146 countries it examined, making the sultanate the eighth worst country in the world for gender parity and the second worst in the Arab world. It scored particularly badly, compared with global averages, on women’s economic opportunities and their political empowerment.
The Omani Centre for Human Rights has previously pointed out a similar disparity in the exclusion of women from senior managerial and influential political positions, and the need for equal representation with men. Women are still not allowed to serve as judges at any level, and there are massive obstacles in the way of them taking part freely in democratic and parliamentary activity in Oman.
The only elected chamber is the Shura (Consultative) Council, which has no legislative powers and can only give advice and guidance. Women, however, face further challenges, in that although they can vote and stand for election to the Shura Council, they have few practical opportunities to organise independently and advance their interests in the political system. Only two women were elected out of 86 members of the Shura Council for 2019-2023, and women were appointed to only 15 out of 85 seats in the upper chamber, the Council of State, for the same period. Meanwhile, Omani women cannot pass on citizenship to their children, thus depriving them of the right to vote in Omani elections when they are adults.
Although the WEF report indicates that the gender gap in Oman in both health and educational attainment is relatively less than opportunities, economic participation and political empowerment, girls face discrimination in the education system too. Places in higher education are awarded according to gender quotas rather than academic achievement, which creates unfair competition and frustratingly limits young women’s chances of getting the places they deserve.
Economic participation and opportunities are more restricted for women than for men. There are certain jobs where it is specified that women are not allowed to apply and applicants have to be male. The government does nothing to prevent discrimination in the workplace or seek to ensure that a certain proportion of the workforce should be women The WEF Report 2022 also found a higher unemployment rate for women than for men.
We must also point out the difficulties women in Oman face in terms of their mental, sexual and reproductive health. A lack of emotional support often leads to psychological and physical suffering for women, and they are also neglected by government services. This is due to the absence of laws to protect women, and a lack of specialist care facilities, or a telephone hotline for women to report violence against them and obtain emotional support before it is too late. All of these factors increase the likelihood of women suffering emotional and mental health problems, and rob them of their right to the necessary healthcare.
Abortion rights are another problem for women in Oman, where abortion is illegal in all circumstances, however the pregnancy came about. Articles 315 and 316 of the Omani Penal Code make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison both for the woman and anyone facilitating the procedure. An older (1974) version of the Penal Code included a clause, in Article 243, that allowed abortion “in the case of necessity where the doctor believes that abortion is the only means to save the mother’s life”, but this exemption does not appear in the current legislation.
It’s disappointing to see Oman ranked as the eighth worst globally, and the second worst in the Arab world, on how far it has closed the gender gap, and it shows how vital it is to change several laws that in themselves violate women’s rights. The Omani Centre for Human Rights calls for serious action to protect women from all forms of discrimination and work towards a safer and more just society.