The recurrence of the disturbing practice of murdering women and children has a socio-religious background, ideologically based on a sinister gender viewpoint embedded within the Kuwaiti legal system.
Several laws reduce the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanour for ideological and religious reasons. The most repeated killings in the Middle East are ‘honour killings’ and ‘the killings of children born out of wedlock’. The classification of ‘illegitimate children’ goes back to early medieval times, and refers to a child out of wedlock. In the GCC, the law still treats children born to unmarried parents as less-human subjects because of the religious implications.
Killing a newborn is considered an offence, but the punishment is reduced from a life sentence to a penalty that does not exceed five years and/or only a fine of KWD 375, as per article 159 of the Kuwaiti Penal Code.
Such a ridiculous law is shocking but can be seen in medieval dramas such as fantasy series like Game of Thrones. Today the dogmatic absurdity of the strictly controlled family arrangements in Islamic countries has led to the regular appearance of dead children. Legal investigations into parents who got rid of their illegitimate children have uncovered the triggers for the horrendous killings.
The unjustified acts were based on avoiding shame and escaping the felonious complications that meant they would face a seven-year prison sentence. A heart-breaking Supreme Court judgment from September 2008 saw a mother strangle her newborn until he died, then wrap his little body in a piece of cloth and leave him in a public toilet. After investigation, it appeared that she killed him for fear of dishonour.
Painfully, she was sentenced to imprisonment for only a year and eight months with labour, plus deportation after completing the sentence. The penalty of murder is also reduced when an offender kills his wife, mother, daughter, or sister after surprising her in the act of sexual intercourse! The law frames such a killing as an ‘honour killing’, as per article 153 of the Penal Code, which again reduces the act from a felony punishable up to a life sentence to a misdemeanour not exceeding three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of just KWD 225.
The parochial legislative leniency towards honour killing is rooted in societal heritage. In Kuwait, the outdated, male-controlled establishment is at odds with the shifting values and outlook of the contemporary generation. Therefore, it must be changed. The law must increase the penalties against all murder offences to prevent innocent newborns and women being killed. Murder against vulnerable women and innocent children must not be tolerated. Justice must be paramount. The denunciation of such killings is supported on humanitarian and ethical grounds. I hereby call for a coup in the form of a moral revolution.
Dr Fawaz Alkhateeb, Attorney and assistant professor contributed this article to the Kuwait-based Arab Times.