Qatar has been listed among the best nations in the Arab world when it comes to women’s rights, a new poll conducted by gender experts for the Thomson Reuters Foundation has concluded.
The report, Women’s rights in the Arab world, puts Qatar at fifth – behind fellow GCC countries Oman (2nd) and Kuwait (3rd), but ahead of the UAE (10th), Bahrain (12th) and Saudi Arabia (20th). Comoros topped the chart, and Egypt came in last, in 22nd place.
To compile the report, researchers identified people in each country with an interest in women’s rights, including academics, health care providers and human rights organizations. They then quizzed them on a range of topics, including the right to divorce, education and employment options, reproductive rights and domestic violence.
Assessing Qatar on these factors, the report’s authors note:
“Qatari women are active in business and higher education but face pressure to conform to traditional gender roles. Sex outside marriage is illegal and many domestic workers are trafficked and abused.”
It does, however, note the passage of Qatar’s first anti-trafficking law, which was passed in October 2011, and designed to protect vulnerable segments of the population, including women, children and migrant workers.
The report also makes mention of the fact that 51.8 percent of Qatari women have jobs.
In terms of areas for improvement, Qatar scored poorly on access to politics, with only one woman on the Central Municipal Council – out of 29 seats. Additionally, Qatar only appointed its first female judge in 2010.
The report also highlights the plight of unmarried mothers in Qatar, who serve jail sentences of up to a year for having extra-marital sexual relationships.
Gender gap index
Qatar’s overall score has improved slightly since being included in the index in 2007, when it was ranked 109th out of 128 countries. Though its ranking dropped to 115th this year, the index now includes 136 countries.
The report also concluded that Qatar fared particularly well in offering equal educational opportunities to women, but pointed to a widening gender pay gap.
It also concluded that women in Qatar are not sufficiently politically engaged.