Gender-based discrimination is prohibited at Article 35 of the emirate’s constitution.[1]Qatar ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2009, but with reservations to Article 2 (equality between men and women); Article 9 (right to nationality); Article 15 (equality before the law); Article 16 (equality in marriage, family relations, divorce, guardianship of children).[2]These reservations were made on the basis that the articles were inconsistent with the constitution and with Shari’a law.[3] Qatar will report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) for the first time in 2014.[4]

[1] Breslin and Jones (2010) p.399 [2] UN Women (forthcoming) p.3 [3] UN Women (forthcoming) p.3 [4] CEDAW Committee (n.d.)



Family law was codified in 2006 with the introduction of the Family Act, which applies to all Muslims in Qatar, regardless of nationality. Previously, decisions were made on a case-by-case basis, with judges drawing heavily on their own interpretations of Islamic law, and on Qatari customs and traditions.[5]Family law and personal status matters continue to be adjudicated in religious courts, which tend to discriminate against women.[6]

The minimum legal age of marriage in Qatar is 18 for males and 16 for females under Article 17 of the Family Act (2006).[7] A woman is free to choose her own spouse, but the written consent of either her male guardian or a sharia judge is required.[8]A girl may marry below the age of 16 with the consent of both her guardian and a judge. In terms of early marriage, data from 2010 reported by the UN indicate 9.8% of girls aged 15-19 were married.[9]Muslim women do not have the right to marry outside the faith, although Muslim men are free to marry Muslim, Christian, and Jewish women.[10]

In terms of parental authority, in Qatar, a male is the legal guardian of children.[11] He is expected to take financial responsibility for them, with duties and responsibilities for their financial affairs, education, travel, and other areas where they may meet the public world outside the home.[12]

Mothers, provided they are Muslim, are favoured for physical custody of young children in the case of divorce. Under the law, the custody extends to when boys reach 13 years-old and girls reach 15 years-old, while allowing for extension to 15 years-old for boys and until a female’s consummation of her marriage, if it is in the interest of the child. In deciding the child’s interests, the judge is instructed to consider several issues, including the custodian’s affection for the child; ability to raise him or her; ability to provide the child with the best education, medical care, and protection from delinquency; and ability to impart morals and customs to the child.[13] A mother who has been granted custody has the right to child support.[14]Under the law, a mother loses her right to custody if she remarries a man who is not a close relative of the child; however, a judge may allow custody to remain with the mother in such cases if it is deemed in the best interest of the child. A non-Muslim mother may be granted custody until the child is seven years-old, provided she does not renounce Islam and there is no fear that the child will acquire a non-Muslim religion while in her custody.[15]

Women do not have equal inheritance rights in Qatar, as inheritance is governed by sharia law, which allows women to inherit half what a similarly situated male relative would receive (e.g. daughters receive half the amount that sons receive).[16]


Men in Qatar have the right to divorce (repudiate) their wives unilaterally for any reason, although judges are instructed to attempt reconciliation of the couple prior to hearing the husband’s divorce pronouncement. Still a repudiation pronounced out of court can be established by means of acknowledgement or proof.[17]Women’s rights to divorce are restricted. They can obtain a divorce if they can prove to a court that their husband has failed to uphold his marital duties (e.g. by providing insufficient financial support, or by deserting her). Alternatively, they can request the court to grant a khula divorce, although this entails renouncing all future financial support and the women giving up her dowry.[18] Even in such cases, courts are instructed to seek the consent of the husband. If he does not give his consent, it is mandatory that the couple attempt to reconcile before the court will consider issuing the divorce.[19] According to Freedom House, divorced women are stigmatized more than divorced men and are considered less desirable to male suitors, potentially limiting their ability to remarry.[20]


[5] Breslin and Jones (2010) p.397-8 [6] Human Rights Watch (2013) [7] CEDAW (2012) p. 94 [8] Articles 26 and 29 of the Qatari Law of the Family, Law no. 22 (2006), Official Gazette no.8 of 28 August 2006; CEDAW (2012) p. 93 [9] United Nations Population Division / DESA (2008) [10] Breslin and Jones (2010) p.405 [11] UNICEF (2011) [12] Welchman (2010) p. 10 [13] Welchman (2010) p. 11-12 [14] UNICEF (2011) [15] Welchman (2010) p. 12; Articles 173-5 of the Family Act (2006) 16] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 410 [17] Welchman (2010) p. 7 [18] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 407 [19] UNICEF (2011) [20] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 407



There are no specific laws in place to protect women from domestic violence, although since the mid-2000s, government representatives have started speaking out openly against domestic violence, which was previously considered a taboo topic.[21] Also, the Family Code (2006) states that a woman has the right to be free from physical and mental harm at the hands of her husband.[22] According to the National Human Rights Council, domestic violence may be prosecuted under general laws against violence.[23]

Amnesty International reports that the law and state bodies do not protect women from gender-based violence in Qatar. Dr. Kulthum Al Ghanem, a sociologist working on violence against women at Qatar University, reported at a symposium in 2006 that women are reluctant to report domestic abuse out of fear of stigmatisation, or because they do not trust state agencies to protect them.[24]Reportedly, governmental security bodies, such as the police, frequently urge female victims of gender based violence not to file an official complaint, but to settle for a written promise from the perpetrator that he will cease his abusive actions, so as to avoid creating a “scandal.”[25]

The government maintains an all-female police unit that was able to receive in-person complaints of domestic violence, and it increased the hiring of female police officers in 2012. The Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) operates a shelter under the supervision of the Qatar Foundation to accommodate abused women and children, which provides a variety of services. The Qatar Foundation also opened an office in the attorney general’s office to improve case coordination on domestic violence with the public prosecutor. [26]

A 2007 nationally-representative Government survey of married women in Qatar, reported in the UN Secretary General’s Database on Violence against Women, found that 14% reported having been subjected to violence by their husband, with the level of violence inversely proportional to the wife’s level of education. About 5% had been threatened with weapons and 10% had been beaten by their husband in front of their children. 12% of the women surveyed reported that their husband forced them into sexual relations. In 4% of cases that was a regular occurrence.[27] 550 cases of domestic violence were reported to the Qatar Foundation in 2012.[28]

Regarding attitudes towards domestic violence, survey data shows that 20% of women think it is somehow justifiable for a man to beat his wife.[29]

Rape is a criminal offence under Article 279 of the Criminal Code with the death sentence as the maximum possible penalty in rape convictions.[30] Rape within marriage is not recognised as a criminal offence.[31] Sex with a child under the age of 16 years old is criminalized with a maximum sentence of death.[32] The U.S. Department of State reported that in 2012, four persons were convicted of rape and 10 await trial; however, few rape victims reported the crime due to fear of social stigma.[33]Qatari courts often give lenient sentences in cases where it is thought that male violence against women was motivated by ‘immodest behaviour’ on the part of the victim, according to the Freedom House report.[34]

A 2006 survey carried out by the SCFA among female university students found that 23% had experienced physical and/or sexual violence as children, mainly at the hands of their fathers or other male relatives. About 2% reported having been raped as a child or teenager. Respondents were generally unaware of how to seek help or any institutions that could provide them with assistance or protection. [35]

The domestic workers who form the bulk of Qatar’s female migrant population have limited awareness of or access to rights and justice.[36]This means that they are effectively without protection in cases where they are experiencing abuse, including sexual abuse.[37]The Qatar Foundation to Combat Human Trafficking (QFCHT) has referred eight cases for prosecution which involved the rape of domestic workers.[38]

Sexual harassment is criminalized under Article 291 of the Criminal Code (2004), which prohibits directing offensive remarks, sounds, or gestures at a woman; displaying offensive material in the sight of a woman in order to catch her attention; or invading a woman’s privacy. The penalty includes up to one year’s imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 5,000 Qatari Rial (approximately $1370). Article 293 of the Code criminalizes using wireless, electronic, or other means of communication to make offensive or indecent remarks that others find upsetting or disturbing. The penalty includes up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 3,000 Qatari Rial. Victims of sexual harassment are offered social assistance, health and psychological care, and legal advice.[39]

The quasi-governmental Qatar Foundation has established a family consultation center and a hotline for women and children to report abuse.[40] In 2012, the Qatar Foundation reported 34 cases of sexual harassment, nine of which were resolved outside of court, six that resulted in conviction, and 19 that were pending.[41]

According to the U.S. State Department, most female migrant domestic workers do not report sexual harassment for fear of losing their job. Domestics were occasionally deported and no charges filed against their employers after bringing harassment to the attention of authorities.[42]

NGOs have reported that female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced in Qatar.[43] No law prohibiting this practice was located.


There is evidence of human trafficking, including forced labour and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution in Qatar. According to the U.S. State Department, female domestics who run away from their employers are particularly vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.[44]The anti-trafficking law of 2011 prohibits forced prostitution and the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including for pornographic purposes.[45]

There are no statistics available as to the number of so-called ‘honour crimes’ in Qatar. According to UNICEF, the legal system allows for lenient sentences in the case of ‘honour crimes.’[46]

It is illegal for non-married women in Qatar to engage in sexual relations or give birth. Amnesty International reported that in 2009, 52 foreign nationals were imprisoned, sentenced to flogging, and/or deported from Qatar for engaging in ‘illicit sexual relations’.[47] Nearly 100 ex-pat women, often migrant labourers, are arrested and jailed every year for giving birth outside of wedlock. They may also face deportation.[48]

Abortion is legal in the first trimester of pregnancy, in cases where the woman’s life or health is in danger. It is not legal in cases of rape or incest, and can only be carried out with the consent of the women’s husband.[49]

According to the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index, 43% of married women in Qatar use some form of contraception (although it is not clear if this includes so-called ‘traditional’ methods).[50]The Government does not support access to contraception, but contraceptives are freely available at pharmacies without a prescription.[51] Qatari women face pressure from their families to give birth to large numbers of children.[52]


[21] Breslin and Jones (2010) pp. 408, 409 [22] UNICEF (2011) [23] U.S. Department of State (2013) [24] Amnesty International (2010) p. 266; Stop Honour Killings!(2007) [25] Kassem, Ali, and Al-Malek (2012)[26] US Department of State (2013) [27] UN Secretary-General’s Database on Violence Against Women (2009) [28] US Department of State (2013) [29]OECD (2014), Gender, Institutions and Development Database, [30] CEDAW (2012) p. 38; Criminal Code, Law no. 11 (2004), Article 279 [31] US Department of State (2013) [32] Criminal Code, Law no. 11 (2004), Article 280 [33] US Department of State (2013) [34] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 402 [35] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 408; UN Secretary-General’s Database on Violence Against Women (2009) [36] Breslin and Jones (2010) p.402 [37] Amnesty International (2010) p. 266 [38] U.S. Department of State (2013b) p. 307 [39] CEDAW (2012) p. 69 [40] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 408 [41] U.S. Department of State (2013) [42] U.S. Department of State (2013) [43] Humanium (n.d.); Stop Female Genital Mutilation (n.d.) [44] U.S. Department of State (2013b) p. 30[45] Law No. 15 of 2011 on Combatting Human Trafficking, cited in Protection Project (n.d.); Toumi (2011) [46] UNICEF (2011) [47] Amnesty International (2010) p.266 [48] Doha News (2013) [49] Breslin and Jones (2010) p.419 [50] Hausmann et al (2011) p. 295 [51] U.S. Department of State (2013) [52] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 419


The estimated male/female sex ratio for the working population is 4.15, while the sex ratio at birth is 1.02.[53] There is evidence that Qatar is a country of of low concern for missing women. There is some indication that the gender gap may be related to the massive male labour imported.[54]


In terms of school enrolment, there seems to be no gender gap when it comes to pre-primary and primary education based on 2008-2012 UNICEF data. Girls are in a better position than boys when it comes to secondary school participation, with a net enrolment ratio of 95.7%, compared to 87% for boys. Youth (15-24) literacy rates are very similar for males and females, ranging from 96.3 to 98.3 %.[55]

Gender-disaggregated data regarding child labour were not available. However, according to survey data quoted in an unpublished report for UN Women, 28% of respondents felt that daughters should undertake domestic work in the home, compared to just 4% who felt that sons should.[56] This may indicate son bias in regard to the allocation of domestic labour. On the other hand, the labour force participation rate for ages 15 to 24 in 2012 indicates a more significant participation of males (79%) than females (34.1%).[57]

Infant mortality rates are slightly higher for boys (6.67 deaths over 1,000 live births) than for girls (6.16 deaths over 1,000 live births).[58]


[53] CIA (2013) [54] Amnesty International (2013), p. 50 [55] UNICEF Statistics, Belarus (n.d.) [56] UN Women and ASRO (forthcoming) p.45 [57] World Bank Development Indicators Database (n.d.) [58] CIA (2013)




Women and men who are Qatari citizens have the same rights to own and manage land and non-land assets.[59] However, Freedom House reports that in practice, social norms and customs make it difficult for women to exercise these rights.[60]

Law No. 40 of 2004 provides that Qatari men and women have the same rights over their individual incomes.[61]The Government’s housing entitlements are not applied equally to men and women. Divorced women or those married to non-citizens are required to wait five years of residency before they may apply for the benefit. Men in the same situations do not face these barriers.[62]

There are no legal restrictions to women’s access to financial services, including credit or rights to conclude business contracts.[63]Although increasing numbers of Qatari women are entering the business sector, many businesswomen operate through male intermediaries. This is because women directly engaging with male business contacts often face criticism from family members.[64] The Government reported that the lack of women taking loans to start small businesses is not a matter of legislation, but of personal, social or cultural factors.[65] Legally, in cases involving financial transactions, the testimony of two women equals that of one man, but the U.S. State Department reported that there was no evidence that courts evaluated witness testimony on the basis of gender in 2012.[66]

According to the Government of Qatar, national banks have special branches offering a variety of women’s banking services.[67] Data from the World Bank’s Global Financial Inclusion Database show that 68.6% of women compared to 91.7% of men in Qatar hold bank accounts at formal financial institutions.[68]


[59] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 410 [60] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 410 [61] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 410 [62] U.S. Department of (2013) [63] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 410 [64] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 411 [65] CEDAW (2012) p. 85 [66] U.S. Department of (2013) [67] CEDAW (2012) p. 85 [68] World Bank (2011)


In terms of access to public space, Qatari women no longer need permission from a male guardian to apply for a passport and travel abroad, but according to a 2013 World Bank report, they still need permission to apply for a driving licence.[69]A 2010 study asserted that women are required in their license applications to establish that their living situation requires them to drive due to school or work and/or that they lack of resources to hire a male chauffeur.[70] However, the Qatari Government claimed in its 2012 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) report that the Traffic Act (2007), which establishes the conditions for obtaining a driver’s license, does not discriminate by gender.[71] The restrictions on obtaining a driver’s license are not applied to non-national women.[72]

Social norms that restrict interactions between unrelated men and women limit women’s access to non-gender segregated public spaces.[73]It is not considered socially acceptable for women to live alone in Qatar, and those who choose to do so face criticism from their families, and in some cases, harassment.[74] The 2007 Government survey of married women found that about 14% of respondents were forbidden from leaving their house without their husband.[75]

Migrant women working as domestic workers in Qatar often face significant restrictions on their freedom of movement, including their right to leave the country, as their employers must give their consent before exit permits can be issued.[76]According to Amnesty International, denial of migrant workers’ freedom of movement is common, especially if they are domestics who comprise the bulk of female migrant workers in Qatar. While new labour laws have been introduced to protect these workers, they are not consistently implemented, and domestics continue to fear speaking out against their employers.[77]

Freedom of speech, assembly and association are all limited in practice in Qatar.[78]

According to a 2010 report by Freedom House, the 2004 law governing private associations is so restrictive that independent women’s rights NGOs remain non-existent.[79] As a result, most women’s organisations are state-run. [80] However, some of these bodies – including the Qatar Foundation and the Supreme Council for Family Affairs – have been successful in lobbying for changes to the law in favour of women’s rights and for the ratification of Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), raise awareness of women’s rights, and also provide legal support to women.[81] That said, their impact on the lives of most women in Qatar remain minimal, as emphasis on family honour means many women are reluctant to seek help from outside the family, for fear of social stigma.[82]

Qatar’s National legislature, the Advisory Council, is appointed directly by the Emir. No woman has ever been appointed to the Advisory Council.As of 2012, there are two female judges on the Court of First Instance.[83]

Women and men have the same right to vote and run for office in the Central Municipal Council (CMC) in Qatar since 1999.[84] Qatari media voiced support for women’s political participation in the 1999 elections, and 45% of voters were women. Still, no woman was elected that year, and reportedly, women may have voted according to their husbands’ wishes. Some female voters may also have harboured traditionalist views that did not favour women as office-holders.[85]

There are no quotas in place to facilitate women’s political participation. The only woman to have ever served on the CMC—and the first to win an election in a Gulf country—ran unopposed in her district in 2003 after her male opponent withdrew.[86] She was subsequently re-elected in 2007 and 2011.[87] The CMC has no policymaking power. It advises the Minister of Municipal Affairs on issues such as trash collection, street repair, and other public works.[88]

Recent years have seen the appointment of women to several key decision-making posts, such as Ministers of Education and Health, President of Qatar University, President of the SCFA, General Authority for Museums, and ambassador to the UN mission in Geneva.[89]

However, attitudes towards women in positions of leadership remain negative among many sections of the population, with 62% of women and men questioned in a 2007 survey reporting that they would not vote for a female candidate.[90]


Overall, the media environment is restricted, with little consideration of sensitive social issues – including gender issues – in local media, although Qatar-based Al-Jazeera does occasionally covers features on women’s rights.[91] Female journalism students reported to the Thomson Reuters Foundation that many people in Qatar treat them dismissively, because they think only men should be journalists. They said this attitude contributes to lack of promotion opportunities for women in media organisations. At the same time, they reported signs of positive change on attitudes towards female journalists.[92]

Under the Labour Code, women have the right to equal pay for equal work and equal access to training and promotion opportunities.[93] In practice, according to the Qatari National Human Rights Committee, employers consistently disregard the principle of equal pay, particularly in regard to the allocation of benefits and bonuses.[94]Although the participation of Qatari women in the labour force has increased in recent years, they earn on average 69% of men’s wages, and are more than twice as likely as men to be unemployed.[95]

Under the Human Resources Management Act of 2009, which applies to public sector employees, the wage payable to a married person is more than the wage of a single person or the spouse who is not the head of household. In principle, the law does not discriminate by gender;[96] however, men may more often be deemed the head of household.[97]A married working woman is entitled to the head of household’s salary or benefit if the husband is retired or in prison and not being paid his salary.[98] Labour legislation prohibits women from undertaking work considered to be dangerous or arduous, or that could damage their health or morals, and only allows women to work at night with special permission from the Minister of Labour.[99]

Women in Qatar are entitled to 50 days paid maternity leave[100] and to take one-hour breaks for breastfeeding every day for one year.[101] A woman may not be dismissed for marrying or taking maternity leave.[102] Under the Human Resources Management Act, a woman in the public sector may take up to three years’ paid leave on two separate occasions during the period of service to care for children.[103]

As with the case of political leadership, woman in Qatar are poorly represented in positions of economic power, comprising less than 2% of board members[104] and 7% of senior officials and managers (while making-up 36% of the overall workforce).[105]This is despite the fact that women in Qatar tend to be highly educated. 83% of higher education students in Qatar are women,[106]though 60% of those who study abroad are men.[107]Education is one of the few socially acceptable prospects for woman outside the context of her marriage duties; it is not necessarily a path to employment.[108] A woman was granted a license to practice law for the first time in 2000. Now female students predominate in Qatar University’s College of Law.[109]

Parents may exert significant influence over a woman’s education and work trajectory. Women tend to be concentrated in teaching and clerical jobs.[110] Some workplaces are sex-segregated.[111]

The bulk of women migrants to Qatar are domestic workers, who routinely face poor working conditions and restrictions on their freedom of movement, and are at risk of gender-based violence at the hands of their employers.[112]

Under the Nationality Law, Qatari women do not have the same rights as men to pass citizenship onto their children or foreign spouses. Qatari men may pass their citizenship onto their children and to their foreign spouses after five years of marriage.[113]


[69] World Bank (2013) p. 79 [70] Al-Nasr (2011) p. 34 [71] CEDAW (2012) p. 29; Law no. (19) of 2007 Regarding the The Traffic Law [72] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 405 [73] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 406 [74] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 419 [75] UN Secretary-General’s Database on Violence Against Women (2009) [76] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 406 [77] Amnesty International (2010) p. 266; Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 408 [78] Freedom House (2010) [79] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 399 [80] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 402 [81] Breslin and Jones (2010) pp. 403-404 [82] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 404 [83] U.S. State Department (2013) [84] Al-Nasr (2011) p. 43 [85] Lambert (2011); Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 415 [86] Lambert (2011); Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 415 [87] Shushan (2011) [88] UNICEF (2011) [89] U.S. Department of State (2013) [90] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 417 [91] Breslin and Jones (2010) pp.417, 419 [92] Chen (2013) [93] Section 9 of the Labour Code (Act No. 14 of 2004, arts. 93–98), cited in CEDAW (2012) p. 60 [94] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 413 [95] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 397; Hausmann et al (2011) p. 43 [96] CEDAW (2012) p. 60 [97] Al-Nasr (2011) p. 48 [98] CEDAW (2012) p. 61 [99] Articles 94 and 95 of the Labour Law, Breslin and Jones (2010) p.412; ILO (2011) [100] ILO (2011) [101] CEDAW (2012) p. 63 [102] CEDAW (2012) p. 60 [103] CEDAW (2012) p. 59 [104] World Bank (2012) p. 204 [105] Statistics from the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, cited in U.S. Department of State (2013) [106] U.S. Department of State (2013) [107] Al-Nasr (2011) p. 46 [108] Al-Nasr (2011) p. 46 [109] UNICEF (2011) [110] Saleem (2012) [111] UNICEF (2011) [112] Breslin and Jones (2010) p. 401; Amnesty International (2010); Freedom House (2010) [113] UNICEF (2011)


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Very High
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority During Marriage: 
Parental Authority After Divorce: 
Inheritance Rights For Widows: 
Inheritance Rights For Daughters: 
Not Applicable
Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women: 
Prevalence Of Domestic Violence: 
Laws Addressing Domestic Violence: 
Laws Addressing Rape: 
Laws Addressing Sexual Harassment: 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Autonomy: 
Not Applicable
Missing Women: 
Fertility Preferences: 
Secure Access To Land: 
Secure Access To Non-Land Assets: 
Access To Financial Services: 
Very High
Access To Public Space: 
Political Quotas: 
Political Participation: