Wednesday, April 16, 2008

UN Council Hails Bahrain Human Rights Actions

By Sandeep Singh Grewal

From All Headline News:

GENEVA, Switzerland- Bahrain made gender equality, women's empowerment and protection of migrant workers its main bragging points Monday as the country became the first to come under the scanner of the UN Human Rights Council here.

The three-hour interactive Universal Periodic Process session, shown live on the Web, was led by Dr. Nizar Al Baharna, minister of state for foreign affairs, who headed the Bahrain delegation. He was accompanied by lawmakers and senior government officials.

Bahrain is the first country whose human rights record will be reviewed at the Council. Forty-eight countries are scheduled to undergo the UPR process.

Representatives of member states praised Bahrain's report and said it was a model for other countries to follow.Women's empowerment was one of the main issues raised by member states.

Sameera Rajab, member of the Bahrain Shura (Consultative) Council said, "There is a law enacted which provides maternity leave for women. We will also continue to amend legislations which discriminate women."

Bahrain's only women parliamentarian, Lathifa Al Gaoud, added that "The parliament is studying a bill which enables women to work from their home. The MP's also voted unanimously for setting up a National Human Rights Commission."

Al Baharna revealed that the Commission was approved by the Bahrain cabinet and would be set up this year.

The minister also spoke about the new press law and freedom of expression and association. He added that Bahrain was considering a law to give more rights and privileges to female domestic workers.

Bahrain's report was also praised by the representative from the United States, who said the kingdom had made efforts to integrate Shias in the community and to protect expatriate workers.

However it was not all praise. Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, who attended the session, told AHN on Monday, "It is a great disappointment that Arab countries hijacked the process by consuming time praising the report rather than raising key issues. I am also not happy with the response from Indian and Bangladeshi representatives who only praised and did not speak about protection of migrant workers," he said.

The UPR process calls for all UN member states to be reviewed over the next four years.

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