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No law that criminalises domestic violence; other forms of discrimination against women prevail in Qatar: Amnesty

No law that criminalises domestic violence; other forms of discrimination against women prevail in Qatar: Amnesty

Though Qatar has tightened its stand to combat discrimination against women and human trafficking, women’s rights continue to be curtailed in law, policy and practise, reports Amnesty International.

In its latest submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Amnesty has reviewed Qatar’s progress towards the same.

The report highlights four main areas of concerns:

Domestic and Sexual Violence:

Currently there is no specific law criminalising domestic violence, that also includes marital rape.

According to figures from the Qatar Foundation for the Protection of Women and Children, the number of cases concerning violence against women reported rose by 54% between 2011 and 2013. Of these, 86% were related to physical assault, 6% to sexual violence, and 3% to mental torture. Also, 59% women blamed their husbands for the violence.

About one-third complaints generally came from Qatari families while the rest were related to expat families.

Victims of domestic violence were not just spouses, but domestic workers as well. Qatar’s 2010 census revealed that there were about 80,000 female domestic workers in the country. According to Qatar Foundation for Combating Human Trafficking, in 2012, 52 cases of domestic abuse was reported. Of these, 22 women reported physical abuse, 11 sexual abuse while 19 were victims of forced labour, visa trading or trafficking.

“…at least 30 female domestic workers were admitted each year for attempted suicide.”

However, not all cases go reported. Many domestic workers stay away from seeking justice for the fear of being accused of “having illicit relations”, “absconding”, or charges such as “theft”, reports Amnesty. If convicted, an expat woman receives one-year in prison followed by deportation.

Human Trafficking:

Many domestic workers in Qatar have been found to be victims of human trafficking, where they were made to sign false recruitment contracts back home before arriving in the country.

The consequences of such malpractices have been so severe, that Hamad Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit has reported that at least 30 female domestic workers were admitted each year for attempted suicide.

Discrimination in law:

Qatar’s legislation places certain restrictions against women. These include:

  • Children of Qatari women married to foreign nationals are not granted Qatari citizenship unlike children born to Qatari fathers who marry foreign women.
  • Women under 25 years cannot leave the country without permission from their guardian (generally her father or another male relative). A similar permission is required if a woman has to apply or renew her passport.
  • A woman cannot chose a spouse without her guardian’s consent.
  • Divorce laws are different for women too. While a man can divorce his wife at any time, without payment and without a reason, a woman must file for divorce through the courts, with proper reasons.

Earlier this week, the UN Special Rapporteur Gabriel Knaul while presenting her recommendations for Qatar’s judicial system, spoke about the need of “participation of women in the justice system and develop gender-tailored procedures, policies and practices to promote equal access to justice”.

Rights of migrant domestic workers:

Qatar’s current labour laws don’t include provisions for domestic workers or migrant workers, and are not entitled to basic rights that every other person employed in Qatar benefits from.

Some of the abuses that domestic workers face are:

  • Late payment or non-payment of salary
  • Long working hours, with no weekly offs
  • Passports confiscated by employer
  • Inhumane living conditions
  • Confinement in the house
  • Humiliation

Qatar’s stringent kafala system makes it all the more difficult for workers to change jobs, due to which many choose to flee their sponsor’s home.


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