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The Emir has signed new legislation on the registration of births and deaths in Qatar that includes much stricter penalties for anyone who gives falsified information to authorities.

Law No. 3 of 2016 was passed into law by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani yesterday, updating previous legislation governing registration that dated back 34 years (Law No. 5 of 1982).

Local daily newspaper Al Sharq has full details of the new law in Arabic on its website, and unofficial English translations of its 45 articles highlight a few key changes.

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They include increasing jail time to up to three years and upping the maximum fine to QR100,000 for submitting fraudulent or incorrect information.

Additionally, the new law states that failure to register a birth or death within a certain time period or intentionally recording a birth or death more than once could lead to a prison sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to QR10,000.

Previously, the penalties for double entry were three months in jail and/or a QR200 to QR2,000 fine.

Registering a birth

As before, babies born in Qatar must be registered within 15 days of being born, but the new law now makes it possible for the baby’s mother to do that.

According to Article 3, the order of people permitted to officially report a birth are: The baby’s father (if present); adult male relatives of the baby, followed by the closest female relative who attended the birth; the doctor who attended the birth or other authorized persons; the managers of the hospitals, prison or other place where the birth took place; the mother; a court-appointed competent person; the captain of a ship or pilot of an aircraft of other means of transport where the birth took place.

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Babies born outside of the country to Qatari parents should be registered within 30 days of the birth.

Meanwhile, Article 4 outlines the information needed to register a birth, namely: the date of birth (according to the Hijri and Gregorian calendars); the time and place; and the gender of the baby along with his/her name.

The name should not be shared by a sibling and cannot be against public norms.

Also needed are the names of both parents, the doctor or registered person who helped with the delivery and the name of the person who reported the birth.

The new law additionally requires the name of the hospital or location where the birth took place, which was not specified under the old law.

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Chantelle D'mello

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It also specifies additional requirements from a hospital or licensed obstetrics center where a pregnancy is registered.

They facility must open a case file that should include information about the mother and statements of the husband or father of the baby, “according to the circumstances,” Article 7 states.

Non-submission of required documents must be reported to the public prosecutor.

The detailed provisions within the new law appear to be codifying existing practice in Qatar, where home births are not permitted and it is illegal for unmarried women to get pregnant or give birth.

Registering deaths

A number of more detailed provisions concerning the procedure for registering deaths are also included in the updated law.

Most notably, the time period for registering a death or stillbirth has been extended from 48 hours to seven days.

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In the case of a baby who has died before being registered, its birth and death must be reported. However, for babies stillborn after 28 weeks, only their death needs to be registered.

The details of nationals living outside Qatar should be registered with the relevant authorities within 30 days.

A permanent committee on births and deaths will be established at the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and it, along with the Ministry of Public Health, will be responsible for administering the procedures.

Thoughts?

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In an effort to promote the use of Arabic more widely in Qatar, the state Cabinet yesterday approved a draft law that would require all ministries, official organizations and public schools and universities to use the language in all their communications.

Only a few details of the provisions of the new law on the “protection of the Arabic language” have so far been released.

However when it becomes law, QNA reported that it would affect all ministries, official institutions, municipalities and public educational institutions at all levels of education, implying government-run kindergartens, schools and universities.

It would require them to use Arabic for instructions, documents, contracts, transactions, correspondence, labels, programs, publications, advertisements and “all that comes out of their systems”, QNA added.

‘Teach Arabic’

It also suggests that Qatar University (QU) could be affected by the new rules, adding:

“National public universities and institutions of higher education, overseen by the government, are also committed to teach the Arabic language in all science and knowledge.”

Four years ago, the then-Supreme Education Council issued a decision that the language of instruction for classes in law, international affairs, media and business administration must switch from English to Arabic starting in September 2012.

 Qatar University campus

Qatar University

Qatar University campus

Degrees in science, engineering, pharmacy and medicine continued to be taught in English.

It is not clear if this draft law would require a switch of language in which these classes are taught, or if students studying these subjects would be required to take Arabic classes as part of their degree program.

A change in language instruction would significantly affect students and faculty at the university, many of whom are international.

When the previous language change took place, it raised issues about a lack of course materials in Arabic and potential problems over international rankings, collaboration and accreditation.

QU was unable to comment to Doha News at the time of publication.

Loss of identity

The new draft law comes amid a wider concern that many younger people particularly do not have a strong enough grasp of Modern Standard Arabic (fusha).

Qatar’s former first lady Sheikha Moza bint Nasser has repeatedly raised this issue, most recently last month when she equated a loss of language to the erosion of cultural identity.

Sheikha Moza

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Sheikha Moza

Speaking at the second edition of the Renaissance of Arabic Language Forum, held under the theme “Linguistic Upbringing of The Arab Child,” she said that speaking Modern Standard Arabic had become a foreign language for many Arabs.

She said that Arabs had two choices: either surrender to complete globalization, or find a way to live in harmony with it while maintaining “our language and identity.”

According to the forum’s website, many children prefer to use local Arabic dialects or speak a foreign language altogether.

Non-Arabic video games, social media and the customs of children being brought up by domestic staff who don’t speak Arabic have all previously been blamed as part of the problem.

Simplifying the Arabic language in school curriculums and requiring local television programs to use Modern Standard Arabic were among Sheikha Moza’s proposals to address the problem.

There have been other attempts to strengthen the use and presence of Arabic in the country.

In 2012, the Emir approved a decree stating that billboards should be primarily in Arabic, although foreign languages can be included as supplementary text.

Those who violate the law would have their advertisements removed “by force” and could face up to QR20,000 in fines.

The same year, an online survey by Arabic newspaper Al Raya found that 90 percent of respondents said they felt Arabic was not being used properly at public institutions, schools and universities.

Some 85 percent of the respondents say the institutions have failed to adopt Arabic as the official language, while another 90 percent have said organisations don’t use Arabic for communication, The Peninsula reported at the time.

Arabic professor Nazmi Al Jamal was quoted as saying:

“In any country people are proud of their language. But sadly in the GCC countries people are more dedicated to English, especially as a language of communication. There should be a procedure adopted to control the spread of English as a communication language in the region.”

Thoughts?

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GCC

Qatar’s Emir has approved new legislation that increases the punishment for publicly insulting the GCC flag to up to three years in prison, and raises the maximum fine to QR200,000.

The law now also includes harsher penalties for those engaging in “witchcraft” and anyone who collects donations without legal authorization, a stipulation that could affect many local volunteer organizations.

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Joao Araujo Pinto

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The amendments to the penal code were initially approved by the Cabinet late last year, and have now been passed into law by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Details of the new provisions of Law No. 22 of 2015 were published in local newspapers Al Raya and Al Sharq and will also appear in the official gazette.

According to those texts, Article 138 of Law No. 11 of 2004 was amended to include insulting the GCC flag, or the flag of any international organization or authority.

The law added that insulting includes “damaging a flag, bringing it down (from it post) or any other action that expresses hate and contempt.”

Previously, only those insulting Qatar’s flag or that of a “non-hostile” state could be punished.

Violating free speech

Speaking to Doha News, former Qatar justice minister and practicing attorney Dr. Najeeb Al Nuaimi said that such legislation prevents residents from exercising their right to freely express their opinions against other countries and their policies.

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He said that he believes Qatar’s flag is the only one that should be protected and respected within the state.

In recent years, Qatar’s government has taken several steps to safeguard its national flag.

Two years ago ahead of National Day, then-Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani signed into legislation new strict rules about the flag.

Under that law, it became punishable to use the flag as a commercial trademark and in advertisements without formal permission from authorities; to display a damaged or discolored flag; or to change the flag or add photographs, text or designs to it.

Violators could face six months to three years in jail or a QR100,000 to QR200,000 fine.

Witchcraft

Qatar’s penal law also now includes a provision that punishes witchcraft and “quackery” – whether it’s free or practiced for a fee – with a prison sentence of three to 15 years and/or a maximum fine of QR200,000.

Al Nuaimi expressed his support for the law, saying it would protect many residents from fraud.

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He added that “quackery” is a widespread problem in Qatar, due in part because people try to capitalize on the various beliefs and superstitions held by the country’s large and diverse expat population.

According to the penal code, witchcraft and quackery includes “performing actions or saying words or using methods aimed at deceiving a victim and giving him/her delusions of the ability to perform sorcery and witchcraft, know the unseen, disclose what lies in one’s conscious, fulfill a need, desire or benefit, prevent danger or cause harm.”

The penalty also applies to any mediator who assists, hosts, opens or runs a place where such business is conducted, as well as those who promote it or try to cover up the crime.

In addition to jail time and fines, perpetrators could also have their shop closed and their earnings confiscated.

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However, if they turn themselves in before authorities become aware of their crimes, they will be pardoned of all penalties, the legislation states.

A court can also suspend a verdict if the perpetrators surrender to authorities after the crime is known and if it leads to the arrest of others engaged in fraud.

Those who are convicted of attempting to commit this crime can be sentenced to up to half the maximum penalty, or seven and a half years.

Donations

Finally, a new provision penalizes those who collect donations personally or via individuals, newspapers or companies or any other means without necessary legal authorization; with up to one year in prison and/or a maximum fine of QR50,000.

The legislation does not specify whether the donations that are prohibited are only financial in nature, or also in-kind.

The newspaper or institution that advertises or facilitates such acts face fines of a maximum of QR100,000 and could be shut down or suspended from work for up to one year. Money collected from these donations would also be confiscated by authorities.

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Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

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According to Al Nuaimi, non-profit groups such as animal rescue organizations could be affected if they don’t have an official license to collect donations in Qatar.

But the main objective is likely to prevent the sending of funds abroad to “terrorist groups” like ISIS, as authorities fend off accusations that the nation is funding fighters in Arab countries like Iraq and Syria.

It’s also to prevent fraud by individuals who claim to be collecting money for charity purposes like for Syrian refugees, but end up keeping the money for themselves, according to Al Nuaimi.

The new provisions come a year after a new law was passed to establish the Qatar Authority for Charity Work (QACW), a government body that regulates and oversees charities located here.

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So far, however, Nuaimi said that no organization has been penalized under that law.

Other new amendments to the penal code include article 182, which increases the maximum jail sentence from two to three years for a public employee who obstructs the implementation of a ruling or order issued by a court or the attorney general 30 days after the date of being officially notified about it.

Thoughts?