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By Fazeena Saleem
DOHA: In a novel initiative, some students and professors of law at Qatar University (QU) have joined hands to prepare the draft of a law that, if implemented, would bring the perpetrators of family violence to book and justice to victims.
The group is being assisted by some foreign legal experts.The draft is being drawn up to help combat family violence in line with the National Development Strategy (NDS) that aims at reducing the incidence of domestic violence in the country.
The draft is being prepared in phases and the first phase is expected to be finalised by June.
A ‘culturally appropriate’ draft will be prepared by students together with experts through the ‘legal clinic’ set up at QU’s Law College in collaboration with the ‘Rule of Law Initiative’ of the American Bar Association.
The NDS says that “Qatar would provide a comprehensive law against domestic violence by 2016. And it seemed a perfect opportunity for students to get engaged and in learning how to be active citizens of their country and move forward writing the law,” Marlana R Valdez, Qatar Program Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Rule of Law Initiative, American Bar Association told The Peninsula.
“A comprehensive draft is very complicated. We will finish part of the draft of the law this semester and in the other semesters we will work on developing other parts of the draft.”
The draft is to specify if the law could be extended to cover domestic servants, all members of the family or only men and women married to each other,” she said.
The Qatari penal code currently in force (No.11 of 2004) does not criminalise domestic violence, violence against women, children but it does recognise crimes of physical assault, molestation, defamation, insult and exposing children to danger and specifies penalties for felony or misdemeanor involving any of these crimes.
But the National Development Strategy (NDS) 2011-2016 mentions that a comprehensive system to prevent domestic violence will be put in place in Qatar and it will ensure privacy, protection and support for victims as well as anyone reporting violent incidents.
“Qatar has a law which makes it illegal to assault a person. What we learn is that it is hard to prosecute the perpetrators of domestic violence under this law since it is general,” said Valdez.
A group of nearly 26 students at the legal clinic are also exploring different issues to be included in the draft. They have commenced a research on how the police respond to domestic violence and how these cases are dealt with in courts.
And they also aim to find the most appropriate legal methods to reduce domestic violence. The students will also present the draft to legal experts and government policy and decision makers.
The NDS shows Qatar has seen a significant jump in the number of reported domestic violence incidents against women and children since 2004.
It also points out that Qatar faces two primary challenges in reducing domestic violence: the lack of a systematic data collection and incomplete investigations of suspected cases of abuse or neglect.
“It’s a major issue not only in Qatar but also in the region. Earlier people didn’t even talk about it and now people are talking about it.
“Drafting a law is really challenging but it is essential,” said a second year male student at the Law College of the Qatar University involved in drafting the law against domestic violence.
The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW or ‘Women’s Convention’) to which Qatar is a signatory to CEDAW, the law against domestic violence in Muslim countries such as Jordan, Turkey and Indonesia are also examined by the students.The Peninsula