May 16, 2005: Kuwait Becomes Latest Muslim Country to Allow Women to Vote

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A Brief History

On May 16, 2005, the Emirate of Kuwait, an Islamic/Arab country on the Arabian peninsula finally allowed women to vote, by a vote of 35 to 23 in their National Assembly.  Frequently today we hear of “Medieval” practices toward women by majority Muslim countries, such as the much discussed ban on women driving cars in Saudi Arabia, but not all Muslim countries have taken so long to grant women’s suffrage, and not always just because of religion.

Digging Deeper

Certainly, democracy in Muslim countries was a rare commodity before the 20th Century, and even then, in many of these countries the fact that European colonists ruled the land prevented not only women, but all native people from voting.  When these countries were liberated during the 20th Century, some went to democratic forms of government and some granted women’s suffrage without undue pressure from meddling countries such as the USA.

Oddly enough, the first Muslim majority lands to permit women to vote were in the emerging Soviet Union and Communist bloc, a cultural philosophy that denies religion.  These countries included Crimean People’s Republic (1917), Azerbaijan, Kyrgyz SSR, Albania, Tajik SSR, Kazakh SSR, and Turkmen SSR (in 1927).  Thus, communism was the driving force behind the first Muslim women getting to vote!

The first non-communist Muslim country to grant women’s suffrage was Turkey in 1930, while some other notable Islamic nations that followed include Indonesia (1945), Pakistan (1947), Niger (1948), Syria (1949),  Lebanon (1952), Egypt (1956), Tunisia (1959, Algeria (1962), Iran and Morocco (1963), Libya and Sudan (1964), Afghanistan (1965, revoked in 1996, re-granted 2001), Bangladesh (1972), Jordan (1974), Nigeria (1978), and Saudi Arabia (2015).  Many other minor mostly Muslim countries also allow women to vote.

Nasarwasalam, Iraq, January 30, 2005. Iraqi women set out to vote in the first “free” elections held in Iraq. Security for the polling site was provided by the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) and members of the US Marines Corps.

After all, women in the United States and United Kingdom did not attain universal suffrage until after World War I, so the Islamic timeline is not all that far off.  Note the dates when women achieved suffrage in many of the Muslim countries, how they coincide with independence.

So what government does not allow women to vote?  The capital of the Catholic Church, Vatican City!  Put that in your hookah and smoke it!

Question for students (and subscribers): Should women be allowed to vote everywhere in the world?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Al-Sabah, Meshal.  Gender and Politics in Kuwait: Women and Political Participation in the Gulf (Library of Modern Middle East Studies).  I.B.Tauris, 2013.

Alessa, Amani Saleh.  Women’s Movement in: Kuwait, Egypt, Iran and the UK.  AuthorHouse, 2010.

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“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland