The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation United Nations Liaison Katya Kox-Kruger:
The Next Century Foundation recognises that the Kingdom of Bahrain has made significant strides in promoting women’s rights. However we ask for the repeal of Article 353 of Bahrain’s penal code. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasizes the right to life, liberty, and security, including sexual safety. However Article 353 of Bahrain’s penal code allows a perpetrator of sexual assault or rape to escape prosecution if they marry their victim.
Similar laws have been repealed in Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Palestine.
Rape and sexual assault are violent crimes committed against innocent women. The immediate repeal of Article 353 would remove the legal protection from prosecution currently given to perpetrators.
In 2010, Bahrain developed a commendable program called “Together Against Violence and Addiction” which offers courses on listening to victims.
The Next Century Foundation calls on Bahrain’s Supreme Council of Women to continue programs educating the public regarding the issues of sexual assault and rape and supporting victims of abuse. This is integral to changing the narrative and the social stigma associated with rape.
The Supreme Council of Women has submitted suggestions to the government in regard to the repeal of Article 353. Now it is time for the government to respond.
Bahrain’s progress on women’s rights has been substantial, however, Article 353 is not only a gross violation of this progress, but is also a deep source of suffering that should not be allowed to continue. We appeal to the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to continue their exemplary progress on safeguarding women’s rights by taking urgent action to repeal Article 353.