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Human Rights Watch slams Qatar’s male guardianship laws in rare negative coverage

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In a rare negative coverage against women’s rights in Qatar, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on Monday slamming the country’s male guardianship laws that restrict women’s independence.

“Qatar’s discriminatory male guardianship system denies women the right to make many key decisions about their lives,” according to the report by HRW, titled “Everything I Have to Do is Tied to a Man.”

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HRW’s negative reports on Qatar are infrequent, and the NGO rarely criticizes women’s rights in the country.

There are over 44 pieces on Saudi Arabia published by HRW, including reports, news releases, statements, letters, and commentary, while there are only three full reports on Qatar and several news releases.

Reports on labor

HRW has published news releases and only two reports on Qatar’s migrant worker abuses, while it has dedicated many reports on Saudi Arabia, paying special attention to women’s rights in the Kingdom.

Foreign workers wearing protective face masks and gloves work at a construction site, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2020. (Reuters)
Foreign workers wearing protective face masks and gloves work at a construction site, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2020. (Reuters)

Qatar’s profile page on the HRW website reads that it “has introduced significant labor reforms allowing migrant workers to change jobs without employer permission and setting a higher and non-discriminatory minimum wage,” while Saudi Arabia’s page on HRW does not mention the Kingdom’s latest labor reforms.

In fact, the NGO published a news report calling Saudi Arabia’s latest labor reforms “insufficient.”

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development last November announced it would implement starting March 2021 new conditions under which expatriate workers in the Kingdom can benefit from, with the aim of improving the ‘kafala’ sponsorship system in the country.

The new conditions include stipulations that will allow migrant workers to transfer to other jobs upon the expiry of their work contract without the need for their former employer’s approval.

Lopsided coverage

In August 2019, Al Arabiya English published an analysis of HRW’s 2019 output which revealed disproportionate and lopsided coverage of Saudi Arabia compared to other countries.

Between January 1 and August 24, HRW has only released 22 public comments about Iran.

This comes despite Iran’s dismal human rights record including carrying out the highest amount of executions per capita in the world.

Read more:

Human Rights Watch analysis shows lopsided coverage of Iran versus Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia announces conditions for new labor reforms set to improve kafala system

Saudi Arabia to ease foreign workers’ restrictions under kafala system in March 2021