The Global Gender Gap Report 2010 Bahrain
No. 4 in Arab World and 110 in the world

Bahrain has advanced 6 places in closing the gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2010. Bahrain has been ranked 110 globally and 4 in the Arab world out of 136 countries. Bahrain was ranked 116 out of 134 countries last year.

The report’s index attributed the rise to the improvement and development of women’s status and their access to legislative positions, and positions among the senior officials and managers, as well as the increase number of women holding leading roles and ministerial positions. The rise came after the decline recorded by Bahrain in 2008, when it was ranked 121 among 130 countries.

Despite this development, the parliamentary elections held on 23 October this year showed a different reality that can be taken against Bahrain in relation to the participation of women in legislative positions. Just one woman won a seat by acclamation compared to 39 men. Unless this huge gap is rectified, Bahrain will drastically drop to lower positions in next year’s report.

Because it is practically difficult to address the representation of women in the legislative organ at the present time, the Government should take a package of measures to reduce the gap in other areas, for example by increasing the number of women in the executive departments, the leadership of national institutions and companies, the diplomatic corps and the judiciary. Additionally, there is a need to continue strengthening the political empowerment of women within the political parties and state political agencies. If this happens, Bahrain will rise to higher ranks because this year’s report has ranked Bahrain120, moving up 11 positions from last year’s report, which placed Bahrain 131 in relation to political empowerment of women. According to the report, Bahrain has achieved a reasonable rise in the area of women’s participation in the leadership of institutions, amounting to 4.91% compared to 4.83% in the last year.

It is worth mentioning that the Global Gender Gap Index examines the gap between men and women in four fundamental categories, namely: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment, by measuring the rate of participation of women in Parliament and in ministerial positions.

The decline of the press freedom in Bahrain

Bahrain registered a sharp decline in the annual ranking of the 2010 Press Freedom Index, launched by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in October 2010. Bahrain is ranked 144 this year after it was ranked 119 globally last year. Thus, Bahrain dropped 25 positions in the Index. At the Arab world level, Bahrain is also dropped in the ranking from seventh in 2009 to eleventh in the current year. RSF attributed the sharp decline in Bahrain in the world rankings to the growing number of arrests and prosecutions, particularly against bloggers and Internet users. The spokesperson for RSF Soizick Dolly, pointed to the decline in the situation of journalism and journalists in the Arab world in general compared to last year’s report, he said that the two most exciting countries in the classification of this year are Bahrain and Kuwait, with Bahrain falling 25 positions and Kuwait declining 27 places, from the 60th last year to the 87th position this year.

The report pointed to the widening circle of repression in the Arab world. But many believe that RSF adopts inaccurate indicators to assess the states, which make the states that enjoy a wide margin of press freedom in a less status than the countries in the region known to suppress freedom of expression. It is worth mentioning that Bahrain has seen many challenges in 2010 in the area of freedom of the press including subjecting a number of journalists to harassment and also closing down a number of websites on the Internet. The legislative reforms needed to protect the freedom of the press and journalists are still at a standstill and journalists are still vulnerable to be imprisoned by virtue of the current law in force. The newly elected Parliament must carry out its constitutional duties to protect the freedom of the press and journalists as well as the adoption of the new press law, which prohibits jailing journalists. There is also need for judicial oversight over the closure of websites.