Watchdog urges Qatar to end ‘discriminatory’ male guardianship rules

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani

dpa/GNA – Qatar’s male guardianship rules are limiting women’s ability to make key decisions on basic rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday, urging the state to eliminate the system.

In a new report analysing male guardianship rules and practices in Qatar, HRW found that women must obtain permission from their male guardians to: marry, regardless of their age; study abroad on government scholarships; work in many government jobs; travel abroad until certain ages; and receive some forms of reproductive health care.

Women cannot be primary guardians of their own children at any time, the group added.

“By enforcing male guardianship rules, Qatar is failing women and now falling behind neighbouring countries when they were once in some instances leading the way,” said Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Qatar should remove all discriminatory rules against women, publicize these changes, pass anti-discrimination legislation, and ensure that women have the civic space to demand their rights,” she added.

Nayla, a 24-year-old Qatari teacher, said that, in 2019, she had to get a letter of consent from her father stating that he did not mind her working at the Education Ministry.

Many women told HRW that the rules have taken a heavy toll on their ability to lead independent lives, while some said they affected their mental health.

HRW said the government disputed some of these findings and told the group that women can obtain passports for their children and that they do not need guardian permission to accept a scholarship or work at government institutions.

However, the group said its research findings conflicted with the government’s statements.

In the 94-page report, titled “‘Everything I Have to Do is Tied to a Man’: Women and Qatar’s Male Guardianship Rules,” HRW reviewed 27 laws, as well as regulations and written communications, and held 73 interviews, including 50 in-depth interviews with women affected by this system.

On Monday, Qatar rejected HRW’s report and argued that Qatar leads the region “by nearly every gender equality indicator,” including a high female labour force participation, equal pay in the government sector, and the highest percentage of women enrolled in university programmes.

“The Human Rights Watch report inaccurately portrays Qatar’s laws, policies and practices related to women. The accounts mentioned in the report are not aligned with our constitution, laws or policies,” the government said in a statement.

The government will investigate these cases and prosecute anyone who has broken the law, it added.

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