Today’s Solutions: March 29, 2023

Despite the controversy surrounding this year’s World Cup, it may still prove to be an avenue for positive change in terms of gender parity. A woman referee took charge of the Men’s Football World Cup for the first time last week, in a historic first.

FIFA is eager to highlight how French referee Stéphanie Frappart and her assistants, Neuza Back of Brazil and Karen Daz of Mexico, adjudicated the match between Germany and Costa Rica as evidence that it is achieving gender equality. This momentous occasion occurred in Qatar, where officials recognize women as legal minors in their own country.

Gender injustice in Qatar

Qatar’s laws, regulations, and practices force women to acquire male guardian approval to marry, study on government scholarships, work in numerous government jobs, travel abroad unless they marry or turn 25, and obtain certain sorts of reproductive healthcare. Men, on the other hand, do not require such authorization once they reach the age of 18. Many of these rules are unconstitutional and contradict Qatar’s own constitution, which guarantees women’s equality before the law.

Qatar is eager to demonstrate that it has three female ministers, numerous high-achieving women, and more female graduates than men and that it was the only country with a female lead in the World Cup bid in 2010. Many women who have broken down barriers have indicated that they were either fortunate enough to do it with the support of their families, or that they had to fight for permission over their decisions.

Senior Researcher in the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, Rothna Begum, reported that many women told her that such laws take a significant toll on their capacity to live independently, especially when male guardians denied them permission to drive, travel abroad, study, work, or marry someone of their own choosing. Qatar’s harsh discriminatory policies make it an outlier even among the neighboring countries.

These norms are humiliating and threatening to highly educated women who viewed themselves as “privileged” in many respects. Such restrictions empower men’s influence over women, allowing them to deny women’s rights and even extort them.

When “Fatima” needed permission from her younger brother to travel with their mother, he only gave her a one-time exit pass and refused to extend it, telling her that he wants to “use it [the power] when [he wants] something from mom.”

The World Cup: an opportunity for change

Qatari women have expressed optimism that the World Cup will be a force of good for women, given that Qatar has nowhere to hide from scrutiny. With this historic occasion, it is time for Qatar to start treating women as equals and allowing all women to make their own life decisions.

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