(CNN Spanish) — Women in Qatar, as in other countries of the Persian Gulf, face numerous discriminations based both in law and in practice.
What are the main human rights violations they suffer?
The controversial male guardianship
In this Muslim-majority country –Wahhabi Sunnis is the most representative faction– women continue to be subject to the male guardianship system, so they must ask permission from their guardians (father, husband, brother, etc.) for important decisions such as getting married, traveling and studying abroad (up to the age of 25) and working in public employment, among others, according to Amnesty International.
This system of male guardianship even conflicts with the Qatari constitution, Human Rights Watch notes, but it continues to dominate spousal relations in the country.
Rothna Begum, a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a recent report that “male guardianship reinforces men’s power and control over women’s lives and choices and can encourage or foster violence.” , leaving women with fewer viable options to escape abuse in the family or by their husbands.”
Women must also ask permission to access reproductive health treatment and basic gynecological check-ups such as Pap smears.
Other discrimination in law
Married women must obey their husbands and cannot refuse to have sex except for “legitimate” reasons, according to Qatari law.
In addition, it is very difficult for women to get divorced, and even more difficult to obtain guardianship over children after a divorce.
When inheriting, daughters receive half of what sons receive. In addition, only Qatari men can automatically pass citizenship on to their children, and Qatari women who marry foreigners must instead apply for citizenship, with numerous restrictions.
In Qatar there are no laws against domestic violence or devices to protect victims, although husbands are prohibited from physically or morally harming their wives. Thus, women may be forced to return to their homes, even if they have been victims of domestic violence.
Changes in the future?
In 2008, then Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani participated in the launch of the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030) development plan, based on, according to his own description, “justice, benevolence and equality”, and the future emir was also a promoter of the “continuous modernization and development of public institutions” in the five-year strategic plan launched by the country in 2011.
These initiatives raised expectations that the reign of Tamim, who took office in 2013, could account for the great problems in terms of human rights that exist in Qatar, and the then heir reflected in his country’s five-year strategy that progress would be made in legislation against domestic violence, among many other issues.
“Women’s empowerment” was one of the pillars of social development in Qatar’s strategic plan between 2011 and 2016. In the new strategic plan between 2018 and 2022, however, this point is no longer present.
In any case, cultural changes have occurred in Qatar in recent years, albeit slowly.
In 2012, Qatar sent female athletes to the Olympics for the first time, which at the time was held in London.