Browsing 'women' News

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Children of Qatari mothers and non-Qatari fathers deserve citizenship, not just permanent residency status, an international rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch made the comment on the heels of a landmark announcement by Qatar to bolster expat rights.

This week, the Cabinet passed draft legislation that would give some foreigners the right to live in Qatar indefinitely, as well as enjoy free healthcare and education.

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Expats with special talents and the spouses and offspring of Qatari women and foreign fathers were among those who would be allowed to apply for the status.

But this just serves to highlight the gender bias that exists in Qatari law, said Rothna Begum, HRW’s Middle East women’s rights researcher.

In a statement this week, she said:

“Qatar needs to end discrimination against women and their children, but the proposal to grant the children residency and not nationality merely assigns them a second-class status.

Half-baked fixes to a serious problem of discrimination and family separation will only ensure that another generation of children with Qatari mothers will suffer inequality and discrimination.”

How it works

Currently, only children born to Qatari fathers are automatically granted Qatari citizenship, as is the practice across the Gulf.

There has been a push both at home and abroad to change the law, as it creates a hardship for children whose mothers are Qatari but whose fathers are not.

For example, these children are treated as foreigners and must periodically renew their residency permits.

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Qatar ID card

They are also unable to access the same privileges as nationals, such as free healthcare and education, subsidized food products and many government jobs.

Still, earlier this week, many people in this position breathed a sigh of relief following the permanent residency announcement.

The news has been hailed internationally as a “step in the right direction” for Qatar. The country is embroiled in a months-long Gulf dispute and hopes to retain top expat talent in the coming years.

But HRW’s Begum said the law does not go far enough.

“Qatar should allow children the right to acquire nationality on an equal basis from their mothers or their fathers. They could lead the way in correcting this discriminatory situation among Gulf countries,” she said.

Loyalty without a passport

Despite the criticism, many Qataris said they are still pleased with the new permanent residency status idea.

That includes Dr. Amal Al-Malki, who is a scholar on Arab women and is married to a non-Qatari.

Amal Al-Malki/Twitter

Dr. Amal Al-Malki, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at HBKU

Speaking to Doha News, she said the decision will be a boon to people born in Qatar who don’t have documentation, including Palestinians living in the state since the ’60s.

She continued:

“This also gives Qatari women who are married to non-Qataris a peace of mind. It is important that they have long term residency and the right to own property in Qatar.

I still would like to see how this will translate into actions and be handled. Officials will be surprised (with lack of statistics) of the number of half-Qataris!”

Al-Malki, who is also Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at HBKU, added that she doesn’t think half-Qataris like her children will be nationalized anytime soon.

But she also pointed out, “The current crisis taught us a very important thing. Loyalty is not a matter of passport or documents.”

Thoughts?

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Qatar residents – especially women – are among the most sedentary in the world, a new Stanford University study has found.

The report, published in international science journal Nature, found that people living in Qatar take some 4,158 steps on average each day.

That’s a ways below the global average of 4,961.

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To arrive at their conclusions, scientists at the US-based university analyzed the steps taken by more than 700,000 people in 111 countries, using the data from the accelerometers on their smartphones.

Activity inequality

Interestingly, researchers said that the number of steps taken wasn’t as important as how evenly divided activity was between men and women.

The bigger the gap in activity levels, the more likely it was that the country struggled with obesity problems, the report’s authors said.

“When activity inequality is greatest, women’s activity is reduced much more dramatically than men’s activity, and thus the negative connections to obesity can affect women more greatly,” computer scientist Jure Leskovec said.

Qatar was ranked most unequal in terms of activity levels on the index,. Women take 38 percent fewer daily steps than men (2,978 compared to 4,802).

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Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US also fared poorly when it came to activity inequality, and all of these nations also have a high prevalence of obesity.

At the top of the rankings were Hong Kong, China and Ukraine. In each of these countries, residents walked more than 6,000 steps a day.

‘Ticking time bomb’

Qatar and its neighbors’ poor scores likely don’t come as a surprise to many in the Gulf.

Just last month, medical experts warned that lifestyle-related diseases among women in the region are a “ticking time bomb.”

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In a new study about GCC women’s health issues, researchers found that the highest prevalence of obesity was in Qatar.

A whopping 45.3 percent of women in the country were classified as obese based on their body mass index. And 61 percent of women in Qatar walked less than 20 minutes a day.

Similar rates were found in other Gulf states, according to the report, titled The Ticking Time Bomb in Lifestyle-related Diseases Among Women in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries.

This is in part due to a lack of facilities or access to fitness centers, the National reported.

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The desert climate, a lack of social support and prevalence of household help also play a role, according to the study’s lead author.

Dr. Mashael Alshaikh explained:

“The social norms and the effect of urbanization, such as importing cheap labor to help the woman in the house – this limits the physical activity, even inside the house.

Data from the WHO shows that the countries with gender inequality have more health risks, that’s why we focused on cardiovascular disease prevention.”

Walkability

To improve activity levels worldwide, Stanford researchers suggested creating an environment in which it is safe and enjoyable to walk.

Citing examples in the US, Dr. Scott Delp said:

“If you must cross major highways to get from point A to point B in a city, the walkability is low; people rely on cars,” he said. “In cities like New York and San Francisco, where you can get across town on foot safely, the city has high walkability.”

In Qatar, walking continues to be a difficult and sometime dangerous activity. This is due to ongoing construction, the heat and stares from passersby, according to some women.

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However, authorities are working to establish more pedestrian-friendly interchanges, especially at “black spots” around the country.

What else do you think can be done to boost activity levels in Qatar? Thoughts?

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Qataris heading to Austria this fall should take note of an upcoming ban on full-faced veils, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

In a travel advisory reported by QNA, the ministry said citizens who wish to travel to the country once the ban takes effect in October “must abide by it.”

Earlier this year, Austria’s government approved legislation to fine people who wear clothes that obstruct their facial features in public places.

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Those who do so could be slapped with a €150 (QR614) penalty.

The ban includes burqas and niqabs worn by women at universities, courts or while riding public transport, according to local media.

Across Europe

Other European countries including France, Belgium and the Netherlands have also banned the burqa and niqab in public.

And Germany and Norway have been considering following suit.

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Most Muslim scholars agree that women are not Islamically required to cover their faces in public.

However, some women, including in Qatar, wear niqabs for cultural reasons or because they feel more comfortable this way.

Politics

Austria’s ban has been denounced by Muslims in the country, who say it plays into Islamophobia. Thousands even rallied against the legislation in Vienna in February.

“Every woman must be able to move freely in public without harassment and discrimination – no matter what she does or does not wear,” one Muslim youth group said on its Facebook page.

According to the Guardian, the move is more a political one than anything else, as government leaders struggle to win the public’s approval.

“Only between 100 and 150 women are estimated to wear the full-face veil in Austria,” the newspaper reported earlier this year.

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Zell am See Kaprun

It added that the ban would apply in tourist destinations such as the Zell am See ski resort as well as the more urban city of Vienna.

Would the ban affect your decision to visit Vienna? Thoughts?