Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but does not address spousal rape. There were publicized cases of rape involving foreigners, but none were reported involving citizens. The penalty for rape is life imprisonment, regardless of the age or gender of the victim. If the perpetrator is a relative, teacher, guardian, or caregiver of the victim, the penalty is death. The government enforced the law against rape, but victims feared social stigma and underreported the crime.
There is no specific law criminalizing domestic violence. According to the NHRC, domestic violence may be prosecuted under the criminal law that provides a general prohibition against violence. According to the quasi-governmental QFPWC, domestic violence against women continued to be a problem. There were neither arrests nor convictions for family domestic violence among citizens publicized in the press, although there were reports of cases involving noncitizens. During the year, 406 cases of domestic abuse against women were reported to the foundation. There was no reported data on sexual abuse provided by foreign embassies.
The SCFA operated a shelter under the supervision of the QFPWC to accommodate abused women and children. During the year the shelter accommodated 20 women and six children. The shelter provided a variety of services, including financial assistance, legal aid, and psychological counseling.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and carries penalties of imprisonment or fines. In some cases sponsors sexually harassed and mistreated foreign domestic servants. Most domestic servants did not press charges for fear of losing their jobs. The QFCHT reported seven cases of sexual harassment, four of which were ultimately resolved outside of court, one that was dismissed by prosecutors, and two that were pending before the court. When the domestic employees brought harassment to the attention of authorities, the employees were occasionally deported and no charges were filed against the employer.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination or coercion. There was no direct government support for access to means of contraception, but contraceptives were freely available without a prescription. Licensed medical professionals attended mothers at birth, and maternal care was readily available. Men and women had equal access to treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Discrimination: The constitution asserts the principle of equality between citizens in rights and responsibilities, but legislation such as the Housing Law and the Nationality Law undermine this principle of equality with regard to women. The law governing the generous government housing system was generally applied fairly in practice and provides significant protection to women, with the exception of citizen women divorced from noncitizen men. The Housing Law requires the passage of five years’ residency from the date of divorce for these citizen women to obtain their housing entitlement. Under the Nationality Law, citizen women faced legal discrimination in obtaining and transmitting citizenship for their noncitizen husbands and their children, respectively.
Traditions and interpretation of Sharia also significantly disadvantage women in family, property, and inheritance law and in the judicial system generally. For example, a non-Muslim wife does not have the automatic right to inherit from her Muslim husband. She receives an inheritance only if her husband wills her a portion of his estate, and even then is eligible to receive only one-third of the total estate. The proportion that women inherit depends upon their relationship to the deceased; in the cases of siblings, sisters inherit only one-half as much as their brothers. In cases of divorce, young children usually remain with the mother, regardless of her religion, unless she is found to be unfit. Women who are granted guardianship over their children by law receive their financial rights and associated right of residence.
Women may attend court proceedings and may represent themselves, but a male relative generally represented them. In cases involving financial transactions, the testimony of two women equals that of one man, but courts routinely evaluated evidence according to the overall credibility of the witness and the testimony being offered and not on the basis of gender.
A non-Muslim woman is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage to a Muslim, but many make a personal decision to do so. Children born to a Muslim father are considered Muslims. Men may prevent adult female family members from leaving the country, but only by seeking and securing a court order. During the year, there were no reports that women older than 18 years of age were prevented from traveling abroad.
According to the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, women constituted approximately 13 percent of business owners, mainly operating design companies, fashion establishments, training centers, and beauty centers. Women served in the workforce as university professors, public school teachers, and police. Women served as professionals in government service, education, health, and private business. Women received equal pay for equal work, but often lacked access to some positions and did not receive equal allowances for transportation, housing, and subsistence.
There is no specialized government office devoted to women’s equality, but the SCFA and NHRC continued their efforts to improve the status of women and the family under both civil and Islamic law. The councils contributed to a number of national and international conferences, studies, and reports on the status of women in the country, as well as the drafting of legislation affecting women and children. During the year the SCFA and NHRC made a recommendation to the ministerial council to provide equal rights to children of female citizens married to noncitizens in the areas of health, education, employment, and housing.