Manama: A bill poised to address family status cases within the Shiite community in Kuwait is likely to come one step closer to becoming law.
The newly-formed legislative and legal affairs committee in the parliament on Monday agreed to give priority to the draft laws that have been dormant for some time.
“The membership of three Shiite lawmakers will be a strong motivation to review the bill, especially that it comprises several articles and needs a careful review,” MP Ahmad Al Fadhl said.
“Enacting a personal status law for the Jaafari sect is an urgent request that would enhance the reputation of Bahrain. It also serves to achieve equality and justice as stipulated by the constitution,” Al Fadhl said, quoted by Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah on Tuesday.
There is determination among lawmakers to move ahead with the bill and when it becomes law, the parliamentary committee will have time to focus on the other legal proposals on its agenda, he added.
MP Khalil Al Saleh said that the bill has been dormant with the committee and should be debated.
“It is a bill with provisions that are related to marriages, divorce and inheritance,” he said. “In some countries, they have up to 30 bureaus for personal status based on religions and sects. We, here in Kuwait have a civil society.”
In 1984, Kuwait promulgated the Kuwaiti Personal Status Act, also known as the Family Law Act, as the main codified law that governs matters relating to marriage and family relations of the Sunnis in the country.
The Family Law is based on an amalgamation of rules taken primarily from the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence.
Under the law, cases in which a particular matter is not sufficiently addressed are settled by judges in accordance with the rules and general principles of the Maliki School of jurisprudence which represents the majority of Kuwait’s Sunni population. Adherents to other schools are governed by their own rules.
However, as the number of specifically Shiite religious and legal issues have increased over the years, several proposals have been suggested to enact a law that would be specific for the Shiites.
In neighbouring Bahrain, the Council of Representatives, the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament, in 2009 endorsed a family law draft that covered only Sunnis after Shiite MPs rejected the draft section that applied to Shiites.
Shiite leaders said that parliament was not qualified to decide on family matters rooted in religious jurisprudence.
They believed that only top Shiite leaders, such as Iraq-based Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, had the authority to legislate on such matters.
The draft law for both Sunnis and Shiites submitted by the government to the parliament in early 2009 was withdrawn.
The government then reintroduced a Sunni-only version of the draft bill that was swiftly passed with only three Salafi lawmakers rejecting it.
The three MPs consulted with Salafi leaders in another Gulf country who advised them to oppose it.
In 2017, Bahrain eventually passed a unified family law to improve the legal status of women regardless of their sect.
The bill, a major breakthrough for families in general and women in particular, governs personal status and family matters such as marriage, divorce and custody and covers the rights of men and women from both the Sunni and Shiite sects, the two main components of the Bahraini society.