Before 1994, women in Oman did not have permission to vote. Before 2008, women did not have equal ownership of property compared to men. These are a small glimpse of many such fundamental rights that some countries deny women. Preconceived notions about the roles of women in society are difficult to alter after generations of their observance; however, Oman is starting to make significant strides towards progress in women’s rights.
Women’s Suffrage in Oman
In the 2003 elections in Oman, both men and women received an equal chance to vote for the first time. Women obtained permission to vote for members of the Majlis al-Shura, the elected governing body of Oman, and could even run as candidates in 2012. Commentator Muhammad Al Hinai observed that “society is becoming more aware of how important the woman’s role is, in pushing the wheels of development in the country along with men,” in a Gulf News interview. In the recent elections of Majlis al-Shura that took place in October 2019, 47.3% of voters were women, and government bodies have represented more than twice the number of women since the 2012 elections.
Omani Women’s Right to Equal Pay
Women in Oman face many day-to-day challenges, including their right to equal pay. Under the Basic Law of Oman’s government, women are entitled to the same wages and treatment as men. In practice, however, the law overlooks workplace discrimination and prejudices employers have against women. Women continue to face difficulty in gaining equal independence when they have to financially rely on their husbands to be the breadwinners of the family. Due to the lower pay, women in Oman are more likely to face greater financial struggles than men and are frequently unable to escape the cycle of poverty. Despite this issue, recent laws and articles have brought the gender wage gap to the forefront of Omani citizens’ attention.
The national daily Times of Oman reported that between 2010 and 2016, the wage for women increased more than 160%. The Omani Women’s Association, a non-governmental organization that emerged in 1972, is a prominent supporter of women’s rights in Oman. Its work promotes social justice and equal opportunities by encouraging women to apply for jobs and gain a source of income, eliminating dependence on family members. Opportunities that the organization offers include providing literacy classes, as well as setting up family programs to allow women to explore areas of interest outside of caretaking. The Omani Women’s Association currently has 58 associations across Oman.
Laws Regarding Marriage
Although Oman has made several breakthroughs regarding the ability of women to choose their spouses and divorce their husbands, the patriarchal system effectuates that women remain dependent on men. According to Article 17 in Oman’s Basic Law, women can marry freely. However, the Personal Status Law retains higher authority in matters of guardianship, child custody and inheritance. In exchange for protection, Omani women must bind themselves to their husbands and may not receive financial compensation if they divorce. As a result, women are unable to fully exercise their rights.
Nevertheless, the Government of Oman stipulated in a 2016 report that it was attempting to “[address] shortcomings in the application of the Personal Status Law by amending to ensure women’s optimal obtainment of their right.” In addition to granting women more fundamental freedom, the Government of Oman is building schools in order to provide women with education and improve the issue of women’s rights in Oman.
The Importance of Awareness About Women’s Rights in Oman
The first step in creating a progressive mindset in society is to inform and educate civilians. Without knowledge, countries like Oman cannot obtain change simply through legislation, and oftentimes, women in countries such as Oman are not even aware of their basic rights.
Awareness of rights and the necessity to challenge traditional thinking has led to the passing of many successful laws in Oman. In Oman’s capital of Muscat, Omani women held a three-day protest in front of the General Police Headquarters to advocate for women to gain better access to healthcare. While two of the women underwent unfair detainment without a proper hearing, authorities eventually released them imposing any charges on them.
Following the numerous demonstrations in the capital, the government of Oman attempted to pass laws to improve the state of women’s rights in Oman. For example, in 2008, Omani legislation passed a law that declared that courts would regard testimonies from both men and women as equal. In addition, a 2010 law stated that married Omani women no longer needed the consent of their husbands in order to acquire a passport, a law that established a great amount of freedom for women. Advocating for women’s rights is an essential component to empowering and supporting women in developing countries.
– Esha Kelkar