Gender Discrimination in Qatar’s Nationality Laws


Qatar’s discriminatory laws and practices against women have long been documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW). In 2009, Qatar became a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). However, it retained a reservation to Article 9(2), which states that women and men should have equal rights “with respect to nationality of their children”. The CEDAW committee has repeatedly reported concerns about this reservation, highlighting the importance of having the full right to nationality in promoting gender equality.

According to Qatar’s Nationality Act No. 38 of 2005, Qatari women cannot automatically confer nationality to their children, while men can. Even when they apply for it, it is not always guaranteed as in 2023, most women’s requests were rejected. Unlike men, female citizens must ask permission from the government to marry foreigners, which is not always granted, and can only apply for residency, not citizenship, for their foreign husbands and children. As a result, this restricts women’s freedom to choose who they marry. This glaring discrimination against women leaves them at the mercy of Qatari men’s guardianship.

Under these laws, only men can gain full rights as Qatari citizens. Women’s lack of right to pass on their nationality demonstrates the wider issue of Qatari women not being treated as full citizens. Their rights are directly linked to having a Qatari husband, leading them to be treated as inferior to men. This is especially evident as women are denied the authority to act as their children’s guardians. As a result, women are in a very precarious situation whereby they may lose their children if their husbands divorce them. This has very severe implications as women may be forced to remain in abusive relationships due to the fear of losing their children. Their lack of protection under Qatari family law is detrimental to their human rights.

Since the first Universal Periodic Review cycle in 2010, Qatar has received numerous recommendations to amend the Nationality Act and Family Code to grant women more rights. In 2019, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, and Equality Now wrote a joint letter to the CEDAW Committee to draw attention to these issues and recommended that Qatar’s reservation of Article 9 be removed. Despite pressure from states and organisations, no substantial changes have been made to improve gender equality in these areas.

It is evident that Qatar is using the 2005 Nationality Act to incentivise women to marry Qatari men and encourage male guardianship. By doing so, the government is interfering with private life, a clear breach of its legal commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These systemic violations infringe on Qatar’s international obligations, which must be rectified immediately to prevent further inequalities. The international community must continue to advocate for the full emancipation of Qatari women and hold the government accountable for curtailing their rights.

Qatari women must be treated as full citizens, and not an extension of their male spouses or relatives. ECDHR urges Qatar to change its nationality law in line with CEDAW and ICCPR standards, and give Qatari women their legitimate birthright to be full citizens and to pass on their citizenship. As part of this, women must also be given the automatic right to be their child’s legal guardian. These recommendations are imperative for the emancipation of Qatari women.