State and politics
Kuwait gained full independence in 1961. The following
year, a constitution was adopted giving the emir the
executive power. The key positions in the government are
held by members of the royal family. The legislative power
formally has Parliament (50 members), which the emir can,
however, dissolve. This has happened several times, for
example in 1986 after a constitutional crisis caused by
criticism of the government. A new parliament was elected in
October 1992. Political parties are banned. The right to
vote has been severely limited to literate men among the
"genuine" Kuwaiti, whose families have lived in Kuwait since
1920. Military and police are exempt. The many guest
workers, about 60% of the population of the Iraq invasion of
1990, lack virtually civil rights. At the 1981 election,
6.4% of the population was entitled to vote and in 1985 even
Kuwait's state of affairs can be described as patriarchal
or as an enlightened despotism with the power concentrated
on the emir and his family, Al Sabah. However, it has been
characterized by a traditional pursuit of consensus between
the original clans and mutually dependent on them, as well
as by a greater openness and pluralism than in most other
Arab countries, even after 1986. More important than the
formal policy is not only the economy with the huge oil
revenues, which have benefited all Kuwaiti people, but also
informal contacts and old family and clan ties. Only
recently has the old system seriously and to a greater
extent begun to be called into question. In particular,
women are active in the struggle for a democratic system.
The Emir promised political reform in the aftermath of the
1991 Kuwait War. The 1992 parliamentary elections meant that
those who wanted reform came to form a majority in
Parliament. However, they lost it to more faithful
politicians in the 1996 elections.
During the 2000s, Parliament was dissolved several times.
Two clear trends can be seen, on the one hand, more radical
Islamic representatives have become stronger and gained
great influence in parliament, and on the other, women have
moved forward their positions. In 2005, Parliament passed a
law on women's suffrage and in June that year the first
female minister in the country was appointed. Only at the
2009 elections did three women manage to get elected to
Parliament. The same year, it was decided that women have
the right to obtain their own passports without the
permission of their husbands and that women no longer have
to wear a veil in public places. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how KW can stand for Kuwait.
When the US-British invasion of Iraq began in 2003,
Kuwait supported it, and tens of thousands of soldiers were
taken across the border to remove Saddam Hussein. Several
other Arab states were opposed to the invasion, including
The contradictions in Kuwaiti society have not waned. On
the one hand, the conflicts continue on the constitution,
and on the view of the regime. In 2010, young people clashed
with the police and in 2011 demonstrated hundreds of young
people after the start of the Arab Spring. When the more
radical Islamic representatives again won the parliamentary
elections in 2012, the emir dissolved the parliament and in
the last parliamentary elections in December 2012, the
elections were boycotted by groups who considered that the
new electoral laws introduced disadvantaged them and favored
the regime's representatives.
Before 1959, Kuwait lacked a developed legal system.
During the years 1959-64, the legal system was modernized
and codified, mainly under the participation of Egyptian
lawyers. The reform resulted in several comprehensive
legislation, inspired by both Islamic and Western law. The
highest courts are the Cassation Court and the
Constitutional Court. The death penalty is punished for some
On May 18, 2011, Kuwait was elected to the United Nations
Human Rights Council, which was criticized on the grounds
that Kuwait would not be considered qualified because of the
country's Sharia law.
A major problem is Kuwait's handling of the large
proportion of people who work as black labor, often under
slave-like conditions. Guest workers make up about 60
percent of the workforce in the country and many work in
Kuwaiti citizens generally have good access to
employment, health care and education, welfare to which the
approximately 100,000 stateless people from the population
group of Bidunas, who have lived in the country for
generations, usually do not have access.
Demonstrations initiated by bidder with demands for
extended rights have been turned down by authorities. The
group is increasingly excluded and is increasingly being
treated as illegal residents.
In practice, free movement is only guaranteed to
citizens, which excludes stateless and guest workers.
In 2012, the Kuwaiti Morality Police arrested hundreds of
young people when they were deemed to have performed immoral
activities. The arrests took place through raids in private
homes. The additions have been interpreted as a result of a
change in the penal code that criminalizes imitating the
appearance of the opposite sex.
Since 2007, the number of arbitrary detention and cases
of abuse, torture, sexual harassment and sexual abuse of
transgender persons has also increased significantly. Gay
acts are severely punished. The death penalty by hanging is
applied in public for serious crimes.
Discrimination against women is widespread and family law
is based on patriarchal Sharia law where the woman has no
right to self-determination. Kuwaiti law also prohibits the
marriage of Kuwaiti women with foreign men. The country
lacks laws that prohibit domestic violence, sexual
harassment and marital rape. The penalty for abortion is ten
years in prison.
Most media is censored and journalists generally
self-censor topics that deal with the royal family, the
emir, Islam and sexual content. In Reporters Without Borders
Press Freedom Index for 2015, Kuwait was ranked 90 out of
180 countries surveyed.
Heads of State
||Abd Allah as-Salim as-Sabah
||Sabah as-Salim as-Sabah
||Jabir al-Ahmad as-Sabah
||Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah