The Boyfriend System: Migrant Life in Qatar

“Go find yourself a boyfriend. He will give you money and buy you food.” Amelie’s ears perked up and she strained to hear more of the conversation between her nanny and her nanny’s friends.

“Normally, I wouldn’t care one bit about who my nanny dates. But this is not normal. This is Doha,” said Amelie, a French national whose husband works in Doha on an expat visa. In Qatar, zina laws criminalize unmarried sex. This is based on Islamic legal tradition that classifies sex outside of marriage, pregnancy out of wedlock, and adultery as crimes that are punishable by imprisonment of up to one year. Muslim offenders are given an additional penalty of flogging while married Muslims may be sentenced to death by stoning.

“The other madames tell me that anything my nanny does we take responsibility for because she is employed by us. And then, if we get into trouble, all this,” Amelie said gesturing to her condo unit with a fantastic view of Doha’s posh West Bay, “will be gone. So yeah, normally, I don’t care who my nanny dates or sleeps with. It’s none of my business. But in Doha, I kind of have to make it my business.”

In Qatar, both men and women can be prosecuted and tried for the crime of zina, but as pregnancy becomes proof of a crime, by default, it is women who are mostly charged.

Source Credit: Pulitzer Center
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