Bahrain - Social development

Impoverished families receive subsistence allowances from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Free child guidance clinics—the first in the Gulf—and expanded benefit and pension provisions for government employees were introduced in 1975. A social security fund provides old age, disability, survivor, and accident insurance. Contributions amount to 5% of earnings by workers and 7% by employers. For accident insurance, the insured pays nothing and the employer contributes 3% of payroll. Work injury insurance exempts domestic servants, self-employed and agricultural workers.

Islamic law, either Shi'a or Sunni, dictates the legal rights of Bahraini women. Women may initiate divorce proceedings, own and inherit property, and represent themselves in legal matters. However, men retain legal rights over children, even in case of divorce. Custody of young children is granted to women, but fathers automatically regain custody when the children reach the age of 9 (for daughters) and 7 (for sons). Unlike other fundamentalist nations, women are permitted to work, drive cars, and wear Western-style clothing. Women make up over 20% of the labor force, and their employment is encouraged by the government. However, the majority of working women are young and single, and most women cease working outside the home after marriage. Bahrain's labor law does not recognize the concept of equal pay for equal work. Spousal abuse is common and women rarely seek assistance from authorities.

A small group of Shi'a originally of Iranian origin have been refused full citizenship under the Citizenship Act of 1963. These residents are second or third generation residents of Bahrain, but are unable to obtain a passport and are prohibited from owning land.

Bahrain's government regularly violates citizens' human rights. There was a continuation of torture, arbitrary arrest, denial of the right to a fair trial, and restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and workers' rights.

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