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. In March an appeals court upheld the death sentence for Badr Hashim Khamis Abdullah al-Jaber, for the 2013 rape and murder of a British citizen.
There is no specific law criminalizing domestic violence. According to the NHRC, authorities may prosecute domestic violence as “general” violence under the criminal law. According to the QFPSR, rape and 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. Police maintained a women-only division that received in-person complaints freely but had limited access to homes. In 2014, 315 cases of domestic abuse against women were reported to the foundation. No data on sexual abuse was available from foreign embassies on abuses of their citizens in Qatar. In the past police treated domestic violence as a private family matter rather than a criminal matter. There was police and judicial reluctance to act.
Resources for female victims of violence were limited. The SCFA operated a shelter under the supervision of the QFPSR to accommodate abused women and children. The shelter provided a variety of services, including financial assistance, legal aid, and psychological counseling. The QFPSR 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.” Most domestic servants did not press charges due to fear of losing their jobs. In 2014 the QFPSR reported 28 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 right of couples and individuals 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. Non-married individuals who report unwanted pregnancies risk prosecution by authorities for extramarital sex. There was no 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.
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.
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.
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 the age of 18 years from traveling abroad.
According to the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in 2012 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 citizen women largely was eliminated, and women made up 83 percent of higher education students. Women typically received equal pay for equal work, but they often lacked access to decision-making positions. Men typically received more generous packages than women because of their positions. Married couples were limited to one benefits package for education and housing and almost always chose the more generous package.
There is no specialized government office devoted to women’s equality.