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For women in Qatar, lockdown is nothing new


Women’s rights in Qatar not enshrined in law. Male Guardianship rules force women to flee oppression.

When it comes to the issue of women’s rights in the Gulf , Saudi Arabia is most frequently cited as the most repressive country in the region, and Qatar is widely regarded as the most modern in terms of human development. Qatar has become somewhat of a darling among Western liberal intelligentsia, likely in part because of the peninsular country’s pumping tens of millions of dollars into Washington D.C.’s most influential Think Tanks, such as Brookings Institution. The United Nations has even lauded Qatar for their efforts to achieve gender equality.

It is certainly true that Qatar, as well as even Saudi Arabia, has instituted a number of legal provisions that promote the empowerment of women. They can own businesses, own property, vote, even hold political positions and judgeships (all of which, when cited as progressive steps, expose just how far away the Gulf is from modern concepts of equality); so Qatar is applauded for taking such bold action on behalf of women. What no one explains, however, is that all of these provisions only grant rights for women in Qatar that their male guardians allow them to exercise.

Everyone knows that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, but how many people know that Qatar is actually the only Gulf country that still does not allow women to travel without the permission of a male relative? The ban on women driving was repealed some time ago in KSA, and every Gulf nation has lifted the restrictions on women’s travel, except Qatar.