Personal Status Law, Identity Politics and Gender Rhetoric in Bahrain

  • Sharifa Hashem

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


Gender rhetoric and identity politics are pivotal when looking at discussions of the codification of the personal status law for the Shia community in Bahrain. The codification and unification of personal status laws generate a lot of social anxiety because they pose a direct challenge to patriarchy and the status of women. In Bahrain, personal status laws draw strongly on identity politics as there is currently a codified family law for the Sunni community but not for the Shia community.

This work shows the way in which Al Wefaq and women’s rights organisations use similar tools in their arguments by relying on identity politics and gender rhetoric. Al Wefaq rely on a local Shia Bahraini identity as primary over gendered identities and international politics. Women’s rights organisations stress a more regional and Muslim identity in connection to international bodies and identities while looking at women as a primary identity over Bahraini religious community membership.

Using thematic analysis on press releases, newspaper articles and interviews with members of Al Wefaq and women’s rights organisations I argue that gender and identity politics are central to the rhetoric around the codification of the personal status law in Bahrain. I draw on works that examine at the symbolic way in which the condition of women is viewed within the parameters of nation building (Yuval-Davis, 2009; Jeffery and Basu, 1998) whilst also looking at the status of women (Esfandiari, 1997) and the influence of identity politics and the colonial structure of the personal status laws (Benton, 2002).
Date of Award6 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorGeetanjali Gangoli (Supervisor) & Katharine A H Charsley (Supervisor)

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