'We call on Omani women everywhere, in the village and the city, in urban areas and in the countryside, in the plains and in the mountains to contribute to economic and social development with their individual abilities, skills, expertise, and positions in society. The homeland needs all citizens to continue the march towards progress, stability, and prosperity. We call on Omani women from this podium to shoulder their vital part in the society, and we are convinced they will respond’.
The following is an excerpt from the speech made by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said at the opening of the Shuracon sultatire Consultative second session on 26 December 1994 at the Al Alam Palace in Muscat.
At the time he ascended to power, His Majesty emphasised the country’s need for all members of the society to contribute. In his first speech on arrival in Muscat on 27July 1970, His Majesty said: ‘The government and the people are like one body; if one organ fails to carry out its duty all remaining parts of that body would be inoperative.
Because of the importance of his message, His Majesty reiterated the sentiment on 9 August 1970. His Majesty stressed his interest in the issue of women’s roles when he said: ‘We have never overlooked the education of women who represent half of the society’. The credit goes to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for the rights women currently enjoy; folowing to the throne on 23 July 1970, he encouraged women to break away from their isolation in order to avoid a situation where half of the society was paralysed. Credit should be attributed to Omani men who encouraged women to work in various jobs and occupations. Credit also goes to the women themselves, who were able to contribute to the building and developing of their society, translating their rights from mere legal texts to a tangible reality. While His Majesty the Sultan continues to support them, women strived to benefit from the chance by seizing all opportunities in work and education.
Omani women perform a vital role in society. Oman has felt the impact of women’s efforts in the work force, while maintaining their social role as mothers and housewives. They are preparing future generations and instilling in them Omani values and traditions, while managing family resources.
OMANI WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN LAWS AND LEGISLATIONS
Provisions of the Islamic Sharia (law), which is the basis for legislation in Oman as stated in Article 2 of the Basic Law, grants women their rights and liberates them from the injustices and oppression they suffered. Consequently, social legislation regarding women has been promulgated in compliance with the basics of Islam in this regard, guaranteeing rights and protection for women. The following is an overview of legislation that focuses on women’s rights.
LEGISLATION THAT GUARANTEES WOMEN’S RIGHTS
The new labour law issued by Royale decree 2003/35 guarantees a woman’s right to work on an equal footing with men. The text of the law mentions the workers regardless of their gender. Moreover, special articles of the law provide privileges for women, such as the protection of their social role and their particular conditions. It is not permitted to employ women between 06:00PM and 06:00AM, except for circumstances approved by the Manpower minister.
It is also not permissible to employ women in jobs harmful to health employment that might cause moral offence, arduous types of work, or any other occupation to be defined by ministerial decision.
The Civil Service Law is the general legislation that organises state administrative employees. The provisions of the law, which are of a general and abstract nature, address employees regardless of their gender. The Ciril serrice law confirms the principle of equality between men and women in taking up public service posts, as stipulated by Article 12 of the Basic Law of the state, and in accordance with the conditions required by law. The Civil Service Law also special provisions allowing for the special circumstances of women and enabling them to perform their social duty. These provisions are as follows:
- Women have the right to a maternity leave up to forty-five days with full salary and unpaid leave for over one year in addition to the maternity leave to care for the newborn.
- Women can exercise their right to Idda, a legal period of four months and ten days following the death of the spouse, during which time they are entitled to receive full salary.
- Women have the right to accompany their husband for a maximum period of two years and six years for wives of diplomats, which will be considered as full years of service.
- Women have the right to conciliate their social and employment duties.
|THE PERSONAL STATUTE (FAMILY) LAW
The Personal Statute (Family) Law issued by Royal Decree 97/32 has codified the provisions of Islamic Sharia (law) in this regard. It guarantees women a balanced relationship with men based on justice and fairness, in line with Sharia law in the following ways:
- Article 10 allows a judge to permit a girl whose age is above eighteen to marry in cases of a lack of justification for her legal guardian refusal of the marriage.
- Article 23 stipulates that women have full rights to determine the dowery money.
- Clause 1 of Article 37 and Article 49 stipulate the man’s duty to support his wife even if she is wealthy.
- Clause 3 of Article 37 confirms the woman’s right to keep her family maiden name after the marriage.
- Clause 4 of Article 37 stresses the woman’s right to manage her private property.
- Article 82 grants the woman the right to divorce if that is her wish without giving reasons, provided this has been included in the original conditions of the marriage contract.
- In other cases a woman might ask the judge to grant her divorce her from her husband in the following cases:
- Owing to incurable disease over one year (Article 98).
- Non payment of the dower money and non execution of the wedding in cases of damages or impossibility of conjugal life (Article 11).
- If the husband becomes lost or imprisoned for no less than three years and after one year of the application for divorce (Article 111).
- Articles 125 to 137 address the issue of custody of the children and stipulate that the mother has prior right to custody in the event of a divorce.
The Social Security Law issued by Sultani Decree 84/87 states that women are entitled to a pension payment in the following cases that distinguishes them from men:
THE WIDOW: Any woman who has not reached the age of sixty and whose husband dies, and while she remains unmarried has no sufficient source of income and no obliged supporter who can afford her expenses
THE DIVORCEE: Any woman who has not reached the age of sixty, has been divorced by her husband, has not remarried, and has no sufficient source of income and has no capable supporter.
THE ABANDONED: Any woman whose husband leaves her for at least one year to an unknown destination where it is hard to contact him, who has no home or residence, and provided the act of being abandoned is proven by a legal document.
A NON MARRIED GIRL: A girl, who is over eighteen years of age, has not yet reached the age of sixty, has never been married, has no able sponsor, and has no sufficient source of income.
|WOMEN’S RIGHT OF POSSESSION
Women have the right to possess and monopolise their property and deal with it however they please; this is a right guaranteed to women regardless of thier their marital status. It is stipulated in Article 11 of the Basic law of the State that private ownership is guaranteed. This right of women is absolute and includes all property that can be owned, be it real estate or personal property (movables).
Women also have the right to manage their money and property. They are entitled, for instance, to work in commerce. The Commercial Law issued by Royal Decree 55/90 has no stipulation barring women from engaging in trader or commerce . They are entitled to the same rights as the male counterparts
In brief; Omani women enjoy financial privileges independence from her family and husband, a right protected by text of tolerant Sharia law and the laws in force.
The state’s Basic Law has guaranteed the right to education for women. Article 13 of the law stipulates that education is an essential pillar for the advancement of a society and is guaranteed by the state, which attempts to spread public education. This a right soncered to both sexes and there are no law texts restricting the right to education to men.
|WOMEN’S RIGHT TO SET UP ASSOCIATIONS.
The state has, since the launch of the blessed Renaissance in 1970, guaranteed women’s rights to setting up associations which take interest in women’s issues. The law on establishing and regulating clubs and associations was issued in Oman in 1972 and was comprehensivety in 2000. The first association was established in the Governorate of Muscat before the association’s law was promulgated. Oman now has thirty-nine women’s associations in variuos Omani wilayats (districts) and regions.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS STIPULATED BY INTERNATIONAL TREATIES AND AGREEMENTS
The Government of Oman follows international women’s conferences and gatherings with great interest. Oman strives through legislation to enforce decisions taken by such gatherings on the issue of allowing women to carry out their role in society and ensuring their rights.
Women’s rights in the Sultanate of Oman, include preferential treatment in some instances, are considered human rights which should not be invalidated or breached under any legislation or measure.
Authorities in charge of women’s rights and issues are looking into the importance of international agreements and follow any development in the international arena, such as surveys and studies. All reports and surveys on the situation of women in Oman have been extremely positive.
Resulting from His Majesty the Sultan’s efforts to entrench the main rules of the state and to serve the Omani citizen, and also from the firm principle of interaction between the individual and the state in comprehensive development, both the Consultante council and the State Council were established as the pillars supporting the Goverment in the development process. As evidence of the importance accorded to women’s effective contribution to development and their social importance, women were given the honour of membership in both councils for the trust His Majesty the Sultan has in their abilities to influence present and future generations.
OMANI WOMEN IN THE STATE COUNCIL:
One noticeably significant aspect of the establishment of the State Council was the appointment of five women out of a total of fifty-five members. This not only demonstrates His Majesty’s eagerness to involve women in this progressive institution, but it also confirms the trust and confidence he places in the capabilities and skills of Omani women to shoulder national responsibilities. Women have already proved a high level of competency and capability in contributing to the process with female members of the Shura Council during its previous mandate (2001-2003).
OMANI WOMEN’S CONTRIBUTION TO NOMINATION AND CANDIDATURE
The second mandate (1995-1997) was marked by an important qualitative move in the Shura experience. It had been established that Omani women’s contribution was most important not only because it was a unique step in the Gulf Cooperation council States, but also because their contribution was viewed as a practical manifestation of the progressive nature of the modernization process in Oman towards an effective contribution from all components of the society. Women have occupied several political positions and achieved successes that would qualify them, in the court of public opinion, to hold leadership posts.
Omani women contributed during that second mandate in nomination and candidature at the level of the wilayats (districts) of the Muscat Governorate. Two women won in the Wilayat of A’Seeb and the Wilayat of Muscat. In the third term, due to women’s participation in nomination and candidature, twenty-seven women announced their candidacy for membership of the 736 seat council; the two candidates for A’Seeb and Muscat wilayats were re-nominated. In the fourth term (2001-2003) twenty-one women announced their candidacy, and two women won for the Wilayat of Muscat and the Wilayat of Bausher.
As for the fifth term, running between 2004 and 2006, two women won in Muscat and Bausher Wilayats amongst fifteen female candidates.
OMANI WOMEN’S CONTRIBUTION TO MODERNISING INSTITUTIONS OF THE STATE.
Owing to this appreciated trust in Omani women, and due to equal opportunities in education, health and social care, training, and job opportunities, and as result of efforts made by women as well, the Omani woman can play a large part in various sectors of the economy. She has even become able to hold the highest posts in the state’s administration apparatus. Some of the highest posts held by Omani women indude:
- Three cabinet minister ranking
- One with a minister grade
- An assistant to minister
- An ambassador
Five Omani women at the judiciary corps with a grade of assistant to minister.
In public affairs there are two female members out of eighty-three of the Shura Council, a proportion of 2-4%. The number of female members of the Council of State is nine out of fifty-seven (14/%). Women are also represented by two members in the management board for the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry; one female member represents women in the Businessmen’s Council while the Municipal Council of Muscat has two female members.
In the light of the characteristics of solidarity, spirit of help, unity and deep sense of support, the social dimension is an important and main pillar for all national development plans. The Omani citizen is hence, the ‘axis of the hand mill’ for all plans for the present and the future. The Ministry of Social Development, whose powers were accredited by Sultani Decree 32/2003 on April 22 2004, is playing a vital role in providing a number of social services to help citizens when needed and provide them with the elements of decent living and assist them in realizing their goals and aspirations.