In the Shadow of the Law

Bahraini Women’s Realities within the Covid-19 Pandemic


  • Fatema Hubail



With the emergence of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the questions of gender and sect have been reintroduced in Bahraini media as examples, spectacles and objects of critique. The pandemic does not only carry a health risk, but it has also become a means of social-conditioning, surveillance and the reification of difference for Bahrainis. In the cases of Ania and Fatima, the pandemic was a time that defined key moments in their lives: their ability to name and shame their abusers online. However, as these women bravely shared their stories, they were confronted by social and cultural forces that attempted to silence them. Although these two testimonies are not representative of all women’s experiences in Bahrain, they shed light on the various legal, familial and social structures that affect women’s lived experiences. This research will further explore the legal and social silencing of women’s lived experiences through the lens of the Covid-19 pandemic. This research aspires to carve an academic space that brings some justice to these women, by sharing their experiences in light of the emerging sociopolitical, sociolegal and cultural contexts of their society. In this research, I answer the following questions: (1) to what extent does Law No 19 of 2017 on the Family Law (also known as the Unified Family Law of 2017) perpetuate silencing on the grounds of gender and sect throughout the pandemic in Bahrain? And (2) to what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic amplified the expectations ascribed to women on the grounds of gender and sect in Bahrain? The focus on the Unified Bahraini Family Law of 2017 is vital to understanding the social expectations that frame women’s lived experiences in Bahrain. It complicates the lives of women, as the state imagines unification, but the reality suggests that women are found at the intersection of gender, sect, structures of kin, trauma and, lastly, the sociopolitical implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Keywords: digital space; marginalization; Covid-19 pandemic; Bahraini family law; sect.


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Special Section: Law, Public Policy and the Covid Crisis—Part Two