Qatar: Qatari woman's hopes dashed

Gulf News
Dreams of a long-awaited marriage between a Qatari woman and her Lebanese fiancé were dashed after the authorities rejected their marriage request, a lawyer said yesterday, warning that many Qataris are facing the same ordeal.
The Doha-based couple had waited to get married for the past two years in compliance with a local legislation under which Qatari nationals who wish to marry expatriates must obtain clearance from the Ministry of Interior.
The Qatari Marriage Committee, however, recently rejected the couple's request. The case is now with the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) where the woman has appealed for help.

"We have sent a letter to the Minister of Interior, pleading to give the Qatari lady the necessary clearance to contract a valid marriage. We are waiting for an answer soon," Mohammad Fouad, NHRC legal consultant, told Gulf News.

The 42-year-old Qatari woman, without family and in financial difficulties, and the 28-year-old Lebanese businessman told the committee that they could see no reason why the union should be impeded.

Many cases unreported

According to data provided by NHRC, Qatar's sole human rights watchdog, seven similar cases were reported to the body last year.

The figures may not indicate a major problem but the official believes there are many such cases that go unreported.

"Despite the small number of cases we received in 2005 we are aware that there are many cases which are not on the record. Many Qatari women are not allowed by their families to get married to expatriate men even before they can apply for clearance to the authorities. They cannot make their cases public or report them to us, due to social constraints."

Fouad said mixed marriages between Qataris and expatriates are regulated by a law that requires both Qatari men and women to meet a number of requirements.

The law imposes for instance the existence of "adequate social conditions ? adequate age difference ? and adequate financial conditions".

Qatari women, however, also have to obtain the consent of their tutor or guarantor as a prerequisite.

Qatar, a small country with a population of only 180,000 nationals and a growing expatriate presence, is keen on preserving its identity and customs. Consanguineous marriages are very common and mixed marriages between nationals and foreigners are still unpopular, although lately they are on the rise, especially among men.

The trend is leading to a growth in the number of single Qatari women, Fouad said.

"There is a growing number of single women among nationals, because men can marry more easily, even abroad. This is also an issue that local authorities will have to address."

By Barbara Bibbo', Correspondent
Published: 05/11/2006
© Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2005