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June 12, 2005
Kuwait Suffrage Accelerates

The Kuwaitis may take their time to bring modern justice and civil rights to their society, but they act quickly once they make up their minds. Barely a month after legalizing the vote for women, the Kuwaiti government has appointed its first woman to its Cabinet:

The Kuwaiti government has appointed its first female Cabinet minister, a month after lawmakers in this oil-rich nation granted women the right to vote and run for office, state-owned television reported Sunday.

Political science teacher Massouma al-Mubarak, a women's rights activist and columnist, was given the planning and administrative development portfolios, Prime Minister Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah was quoted as saying.

"I'm happy," al-Mubarak, 54, told The Associated Press. "This honor is not bestowed on my person but on every woman who fought to prove that Kuwaiti women are capable."

To give readers a sense of perspective, after achieving national suffrage in 1920 (some states allowed women to vote before that), it took 13 years for an American president to appoint a woman to his Cabinet. FDR selected Francis Perkins to be his Secretary of Labor shortly after taking office in 1933, in retrospect a rather gutsy move, considering the epidemic of unemployment at the height of the Depression. She remained in that position through the Truman administration, a very long tenure for any Cabinet official.

Some countries that have granted women the vote have done so grudgingly and mostly for public-relations purposes, while culturally discouraging them from exercising the franchise. Kuwait deserves some credit for not only finally coming to its senses about women's rights, but also for pursuing the issue with such enthusiasm.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 12, 2005 8:54 AM

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