First Published: 2006-05-02

 
Qatari women suffer from inequality in society
 

Qatari rights group urges government to take action against abuse of expatriate labour, sex trade in women.

 

Middle East Online

By Faisal Baatout - DOHA

Discriminated against

An officially-sanctioned Qatari rights group warned Tuesday of the less-than-human working conditions of the expatriate labour force in the Gulf state and urged the government to take action.

The National Human Rights Committee also warned of a growing sex trade in women and highlighted discrimination against women in the labour market and the inequality they suffer when it comes to marriage and personal issues.

"The abuse of labour rights is on the rise, especially in the building and construction sector, which is something that would tarnish the image of the country if not checked," the committee said in its annual report.

"Domestic help are treated like chattel, they work long hours, they are beaten, detained, sexually harassed and sometimes raped."

It said it received 116 individual and 15 group complaints last year.

Like other Gulf Arab states, gas-rich Qatar has experienced phenomenal wealth in recent years from rising energy prices and is spending billions of dollars on building new infrastructure and skyscrapers, requiring the import of more and more labourers from Asia, mainly India and Pakistan.

Gulf states have for years depended on the migrant Asian workforce to do everything from working on oil rigs, sweeping streets, serving food and cleaning homes, with the more educated virtually running the services sector.

The plight of labourers is not unique to Qatar.

Booming Dubai saw violent protests by construction workers last week and in March over wages and living conditions, amid reports that authorities have deported those labelled as troublemakers.

The Qatari committee said the hardship faced by labourers stem from an inflexible sponsorship system under which employers hold the passports of their employees, the delays in getting paid and unsuitable living conditions.

It has called on the government to revise all laws concerning expatriate workers.

The committee, which was established three years ago, has 15 members, of whom eight are government representatives.

Qatar, a peninsula located half-way along the Gulf's west coast, has a population of 750,000, of whom only 150,000 are nationals.

In its strongly worded report, the committee also spoke of a rising sex trade in conservative Qatar, which applies a hardline interpretation of Islam similar to but less stringent in some areas than neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

"Women are brought to the country under the guise of aiding them and then they are taken advantage of for prostitution and other indecent acts or they are hired jobs in hotels and coffee shops as a coverup for prostitution," the report said.

It also said many female housekeepers are sometimes lured into prostitution because they find themselves stranded in the country when their work permits expire and they fail to find new jobs.

The report had harsh words for the plight of women in general in Qatar's male-dominated society and urged the government to sign up to international treaties which forbid discrimination.

It said women get paid less for the same job carried out by men, they cannot get travel or personal identification documents without the consent of their male guardians, they are thrown into financial hardship in cases of divorce and cannot pass on citizenship to their children if they marry foreigners.

The report made no mention of the case of Hamda Fahd bin Jassem al-Thani, a member of the ruling family, who has been detained by her family in Qatar for almost three years for fleeing to Cairo to marry an Egyptian without their consent.

She was held in prison for a year before that after she was abducted in Cairo by Qatari security officers.

London-based rights group Amnesty International, which wrote last year to Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani about Hamda, plans to submit the case to the UN's Committee against Torture.

Marriage like other personal and family affairs in Gulf societies is governed by sharia (Islamic law) and is usually arranged by parents, with many women denied the right to choose their partner.

 

Terrorist bomb attack kills 22 at UK pop concert

Trump says Israelis, Palestinians ‘can make a deal’

Bahrain police raid Shiite sit-in killing one protester

US forces raid Al-Qaeda in Yemen, kill seven jihadists

Faz3a, a local NGO mobilising young people to help Mosul refugees

Prominent Egypt rights lawyer detained

Oil producers to extend output curbs at OPEC meeting

NATO aims to break Turkey-Austria partnership deadlock

Tunisia tensions simmer after protester's death

Five dead in Syria car bomb attacks

Syria civilians suffer deadliest month of US-led strikes

Islamists to join Algeria cabinet despite poor results

Tunisia's 2.1% GDP growth marks economic upturn

Trump meets Palestinian leader in Bethlehem

Istanbul demolishes nightclub targeted in New Year attack

WHO says 315 cholera deaths in Yemen in under one month

Trump seeks Israeli-Palestinian peace, lashes out at Iran again

Tunisia police use tear gas on protesters

Palestinians protest for hunger-striking prisoners

GCC and Arab League call for Yemen unity

Turkey's alleged coup ringleaders stand trial

Iran’s reformists sweep to power across major cities

Israel makes concessions to Palestinians 'at Trump's request'

Ivanka hales Saudi progress on women’s rights

Looming showdown between Egypt’s president, judges

Netanyahu says will discuss peace efforts with Trump

Bahrain sentences Shiite cleric to suspended jail term

Trump scandals no issue for Saudi says minister

Saudi women celebrate easing of guardianship system, call for more freedoms

Hamas sentences three to death for commander assassination

Rouhani faces fight with hardliners in US, Iran after election win

Trump to urge Muslim leaders to fight extremism in major speech

Trump tells Sisi he will soon visit Egypt

US, Saudi agree arms deals worth almost $110 billion

Iran's Rouhani wins re-election

Egypt marks MS804 crash with ceremony and no information

Trump lands in Riyadh on first foreign tour

IS bombing kills 35 in Iraq

US Pentagon plans to 'annihilate' IS

Dictator's nephew apologises to Tunisia for corruption

Trump heads to Saudi Arabia as domestic scandals mount

Ebrahim Raisi: hardline challenger in Iran

US and Saudi Arabia blacklist Hezbollah 'terrorist'

UN envoy slams deadly attack in Libya's south

Syria, allies condemn attack by US-led coalition