Qatar ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on April 26, 2009

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On April 26, 2009, Qatar ratified CEDAW without any reservations to the Convention. This Convention is necessary for the promotion of the rights of women and girls throughout the world. Ratification would give the United States leverage and positive influence in the field of international women’s rights. U.S. criticism of human rights abusers can be rejected because the U.S. has not ratified this fundamental human rights treaty. The time to ratify is now because the support is there! When Vice President Biden was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he was one of the leading proponents of the treaty. President Barack Obama has expressed his support for treaty ratification. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is even quoted as saying.

Sharia law provides the basis for Qatari family law, which governs women’s personal status. Since 1995, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar has advocated for greater women’s participation in the public sphere. Despite traditional constraints, the status of women in Qatar has improved over the past two decades. In the 1999 elections, six women ran for seats on the Municipal Council, though none succeeded. In 2003, Qatar elected its first female official.

Despite the gains with women participating in government, the majority of citizens, including both males and females, feel that a woman’s place is in the private sphere. As a result, women comprise just 15% of the workforce. In addition, most workplaces (like schools) remain segregated by sex. Women also face discrimination in such areas as: testimony, freedom of movement, domestic violence, honor crimes, inheritance, child custody, and domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.

The Supreme Council for Women’s Affairs, a department of the government, is responsible for improving the status of women in Qatar. The Supreme Council established five organizations that deal with women and children issues: the Qatar Foundation for the Protection of Women and Children, the Family Consulting Center, the Motherhood and Childhood Cultural Center, the Orphans Care Center, and the Qatar Society for Senior Citizens Care. There are no active independent women’s organizations in Qatar.

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