Kuwait University to enforce gender segregation in classrooms, sparking controversy and backlash

Kuwait University to enforce gender segregation in classrooms, sparking controversy and backlash
Kuwait University is set to implement gender segregation in classrooms following an agreement between Kuwaiti MP Mohammed Haif al-Mutairi and the Minister of Education Adel al-Manea.
3 min read
15 September, 2023
The university will ban mixed-gender classes in all faculties that currently have them [Getty]

Kuwait University is set to impose gender segregation in classrooms in line with a recent agreement between the Kuwaiti MP Mohammed Haif al-Mutairi, who chairs the Committee for the Promotion of Values, and the Kuwaiti Minister of Education Adel al-Manea.

The university will ban mixed-gender classes in all faculties and work to separate male and female students, Mutairi told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday.

Al-Mutairi emphasised there was an agreement with the minister of education and the director of Kuwait University to abolish mixed departments that violate the law, whether in the faculty of law or in all colleges that have mixed departments because of the new legistlature.

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The MP pointed out that the separation of male and female students at the university and the ban on men and women students mixing fall within the framework of implementing Law No. 24 of 1996.

"In order to achieve the optimal legal situation, the university... must ensure the prevention of mixing by providing designated places for female students in the buildings, classrooms, laboratories, libraries, activities, educational and administrative services, and all facilities," al-Mutairi said.

"Aside from the law, there are also the morals of the Kuwaiti people and Islamic Sharia which have set standards and regulations to preserve the morals of Kuwaiti youth against any issue that contradicts Sharia or stirs up discord."

The university's acting director, Faiyaz Manshur al-Zhafari, affirmed the educational institution's commitment to implementing the agreement, adding that the university was actively working to avoid any form of gender mixing in its classrooms except in cases of genuine necessity.

"The default [condition] in the academic departments at the university is the separation of females from males unless there is a compelling necessity that dictates otherwise," al-Zhafari said.

The leader of the Civil Conservative Party, Hammad Al-Noumssi, described the move as a blow to public and private freedoms and to the democracy that Kuwait has long boasted about in its Gulf surroundings.

The move is "a selective process not based on practical or even legal grounds", he told BBC Arabic.

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Many took to social media to slam the move as a "setback" that will affect some 3,500 students ahead of the start of the new academic year.

"The decision will cause serious harm to thousands of students, some of whom are at risk of dismissal due to the segregation of academic departments for specific majors. This unjust decision will further exacerbate divisions," Kuwaiti journalist Dahem al-Qahtani said on X, formerly Twitter.

The decision was also seen as the latest in a series of steps toward the Islamisation of laws in Kuwait.

Previous laws proposed mandates for women to wear Islamic clothing when voting or running for office.

Violators could face up to five years imprisonment and a minimum fine of KD1,000 (around $3,200 US dollars).