Viewing cable 05MUSCAT761

05MUSCAT7612005-05-11 11:39:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. (SBU) A royal decree May 7 ratified Oman's joining the UN 
Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against 
Women, although reportedly with some reservations.  The step 
came on the eve of Oman's participation in the May 7-10 NAM 
Ministerial on the Advancement of Women taking place in 
Malaysia.  The Ministry of Social Development anticipates 
that a national committee will be formed to start bringing 
Omani laws and regulations into compliance with the 
Convention.  In her address to the NAM Ministerial, Oman's 
Social Development Minister reviewed the progress made in 
enhancing women's role in the Sultanate's public and private 
sectors.  End summary. 
Changes Expected 
¶2. (U) The Omani government announced May 7 that Sultan 
Qaboos issued a royal decree ratifying Oman's joining the 
1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  Perhaps not 
coincidentally, the decree was announced on the eve of 
Minister of Social Development Dr. Sharifa al-Yahyai's 
participation at the Non-Aligned Movement's (NAM) May 7-10 
Ministerial on the Advancement of Women, which took place in 
¶3. (SBU) The Ministry of Social Development (MOSD) Director 
for External Affairs, Shamsa al-Harthy (protect), told us May 
11 that Oman's ratification contains four reservations, 
primarily pertaining to aspects of the CEDAW that might run 
contrary to Islamic principles.  The details will not be 
known until the Convention is published in the official 
gazette.  She cited bureaucratic delays, rather than 
philosophical opposition, for Oman's late ratification of 
CEDAW.  Al-Harthy also noted that a national committee will 
be formed to identify changes in existing Omani law that will 
need to be made to be in accordance with CEDAW, and that a 
report will be issued annually to assess that progress.  In 
light of the fact that CEDAW in certain areas goes beyond the 
protections afforded in Oman's Basic Law, she predicts "there 
will definitely be some changes."  Entrance requirements to 
the state-run Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) is a specific 
area al-Harthy expects to be addressed.  (Comment: This 
subject is already a hot topic of debate, since the lower 
admission standards for males in certain academic fields at 
SQU are in place to prevent the female majority from growing 
even greater.  End comment.) 
Achievements to Date 
¶4.  (U) In her May 10 address to the NAM Ministerial, Dr. 
Sharifa extolled Oman's trailblazing efforts among the Arab 
Gulf states to promote female equality, and hailed the 
important step of ratifying CEDAW.  (Note: Dr. Sharifa will 
head the Omani delegation attending the opening of the 
Smithsonian's Folklife Festival on the Washington Mall in 
late June, in which Oman will be featured.  End note.)  As 
one of four minister-ranked women in the Omani government, 
she cited several statistics on women's achievements in Oman 
since Sultan Qaboos ascended the throne in 1970: 
-- they constitute 12 percent of senior state officials; 
-- they now occupy 31 percent of public sector and 19 percent 
of private sector jobs; 
-- they constitute 50 percent of undergraduates and 55 
percent of students in diploma programs; and 
-- women now hold 12 percent of the seats in the appointed 
upper house of parliament (up from 10 percent in 1997), and 2 
of the 82 seats in the elected lower house.