Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape. Spousal rape is not explicitly criminalized, but a woman may file a complaint. 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.
No specific law criminalizes domestic violence. According to the NHRC, authorities may prosecute domestic violence as “general” violence under the criminal law. According to the Protection and Social Rehabilitation Center shelter (PSRC), rape and domestic violence against women continued to be a problem. In the past police treated domestic violence as a private family matter rather than a criminal matter and were reluctant to investigate or prosecute reports. There were neither arrests nor convictions for family domestic violence among citizens publicized in the press, although there were reports of cases involving noncitizens. Police maintained a women-only division to receive in-person complaints but due to conservative social mores did not enter homes without permission of the male head of household. In 2015 the PSRC reported receiving 397 cases of domestic abuses against women, including 130 citizens and 267 noncitizens. Foreign embassies had no data on sexual abuse of their citizens in the country.
Resources for female victims of violence were limited. The Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) operated a shelter in Doha under the supervision of the PSRC to accommodate up to 25 cases of abused women and children. The shelter provided a variety of services, including financial assistance, legal aid, and psychological counseling. The PSRC 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. In a 2014 report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed “deep concern” at the “high prevalence of domestic and sexual violence against women and girls, including women migrant domestic workers.” Many domestic servants did not press charges due to fear of losing their jobs. During the year the PSRC reported seven cases of sexual harassment. When the domestic employees brought harassment to the attention of authorities, the employees were occasionally deported, and the government did not file charges against the employer.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the rights of married couples to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Unmarried individuals who reported pregnancies risked prosecution by authorities for extramarital sexual relations.
According to 2015 estimates by the UN Population Fund, only 37 percent of citizen women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraceptive. The Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal noted that the top three reasons for not using any family planning method was the desire for more children, potential side effects, and objections raised by husbands.
Discrimination: The constitution asserts equality between citizens in rights and responsibilities, but social and legal discrimination against women persisted. For example, the housing law, which governs the government housing system, discriminates against women married to noncitizen men and against divorced women. The law requires five years of residency from the date of divorce before female citizens may obtain their housing entitlement. Women married to noncitizens or to bidoon must reside in the country with their husbands for five consecutive years before applying for the housing benefit.
Under the Nationality Law, female citizens face legal discrimination, since they are unable to obtain or transmit citizenship to their noncitizen husbands and to children born from a marriage to a noncitizen.
In order to receive maternity care, a woman must have a marriage certificate. The law requires childbirth outside of the home and also requires that births be registered with the name of the hospital or location where the birth took place.
Traditions 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 she 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. In family law matters, a woman’s testimony is not weighed equally to that of a man. In some cases a woman’s testimony is deemed half that of a man’s, and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.
A non-Muslim woman is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage to a Muslim, but many did so. The government documents children born to a Muslim father as Muslims. Men may prevent adult female family members from leaving the country, but only by seeking and securing a court order. There were no reports that the government prevented women over age 18 from traveling abroad.
Women typically received equal pay for equal work, but they often lacked access to decision-making positions. According to a report by investment firm al-Masah Capital, in 2015, 6 percent of women reported owning their own company while 32 percent reported their intention to start their own business. While labor force participation for women was 59 percent, only 7 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers, and 0.3 percent of board members were women. Men typically received more generous packages than women because of their positions.
There was no specialized government office devoted to women’s equality.