Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but not spousal rape. 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 generally feared social stigma and underreported the crime. During the year the government convicted four individuals for rape and another 10 persons awaited trial.
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 quasigovernmental 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. The police maintained a women-only division that was able to receive in-person complaints freely but had limited access to homes. During the year 550 cases of domestic abuse against women were reported to the foundation. No data on sexual abuse was available from foreign embassies. In the past police treated domestic violence as a social issue rather than a criminal matter; the government took steps to address the situation, including by increasing the hiring of female police officers.
The SCFA operated a shelter under the supervision of the QFPWC to accommodate abused women and children. During the year the shelter accommodated 29 women and 38 children. The shelter provided a variety of services, including financial assistance, legal aid, and psychological counseling. The QFPWC also opened an office in the attorney general’s office to improve case coordination with the public prosecutor.
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 QFPWC reported 34 cases of sexual harassment, nine of which were ultimately resolved outside of court, six that resulted in conviction of the perpetrators, and 19 that were pending before the courts. 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 at major retailers. 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 equality between citizens in rights and responsibilities, but legislation undermines the principle of equality with regard to women. For example, the law governing the generous government housing system was not applied fairly in practice and discriminated against women married to noncitizen men and against divorced women. The law requires the passage of five years of residency from the date of divorce before female citizens may obtain their housing entitlement. Women married to noncitizens or to Bidoons must reside in the country with their husbands for five consecutive years before applying for the housing benefit. Under the Nationality Law, female citizens faced legal discrimination in obtaining and transmitting citizenship to their noncitizen husbands and their children.
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 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 based on gender.
A non-Muslim woman is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage to a Muslim, but many 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 over the age of 18 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 constituted 36 percent of the overall workforce but only 7 percent of senior officials and managers. Women served in the workforce as university professors, public school teachers, medical professionals, and police. Illiteracy among women largely has been eliminated, and women made up 83 percent of higher education students. Women received equal pay for equal work but often lacked access to decision-making positions and did not receive equal allowances for transportation, housing, and subsistence.
There is no specialized government office devoted to women’s equality.