Women faced discrimination and violence. Migrant workers were exploited and abused, and inadequately protected under the law. Hundreds of people continued to be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality. Sentences of flogging were passed. Death sentences continued to be handed down, although no executions were carried out.
Discrimination and violence against women
Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice and were inadequately protected against violence within the family. Family law makes it much easier for men to divorce than women.
Despite a 2008 reform to the law on compensation equalizing provisions for men and women, an appeal court in April overturned a lower court’s decision that had adhered to the reform and ruled that compensation for the death of a woman and her daughter was to be valued at half that of her husband and their son, in accordance with Shari’a law.
In April, Qatar acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women but with reservations relating to equality of women under the law, within marriage and in terms of guardianship of children.
Freedom of expression
At least 11 foreign nationals were convicted of blasphemy, three of whom received maximum seven-year prison sentences for using words considered insulting to Islam. They included a Syrian man convicted of “insulting Islam in a fit of rage” for uttering a blasphemous word when the credit on his mobile phone ran out during a conversation. The court also ordered that he be deported. It was not clear whether the prison sentence was enforced in his and other cases.
At least 52 other foreign nationals were convicted of charges relating to “illicit sexual relations” and either deported or sentenced to imprisonment followed by deportation.
Debate continued about a possible new press and publications law to replace Law No.8 of 1979, which prescribes imprisonment for criticizing religion, the army and the Emir.
Migrant workers, who make up more than 80 per cent of Qatar’s population, continued to be exposed to, and inadequately protected against, abuses and exploitation by employers. Women migrant domestic workers were particularly at risk of exploitation and abuses such as beatings, rape and other sexual violence.
A new sponsorship law passed in February to regulate the entry, exit, residence and work of foreign nationals introduced some improvements. Notably, it requires that sponsor employers no longer retain employees’ passports after visa formalities have been completed. It also allows women employees in independent employment to sponsor the entry into and residence in Qatar of their husbands and children.
Discrimination – denial of nationality
The government continued to deny Qatari nationality to hundreds of people who were consequently denied employment opportunities, social security and health care in Qatar, or denied entry to the country. They had no means of remedy before the courts. Most were members of al-Murra tribe, which was partly blamed for a coup attempt in 1996.
Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments
At least 18 people, mostly foreign nationals, were sentenced to flogging of between 40 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption. Only Muslims considered medically fit were liable to have such sentences carried out. It was not known if any of the sentences were implemented.
At least three people were sentenced to death and up to five death sentences were upheld in 2009. At least 27 people were on death row at the end of the year.