Women’s Rights in the Gulf Cooperation Council: A Dialogue

Guest Contributor - 4th March 2013

By Nazila Ghanea –

On Wednesday 27 February the Women’s Rights Research Seminar (WRRS) at Oxford held its last seminar of the term.  The seminar took a new form and was entitled: “Women’s Rights in the GCC: A Dialogue”. The conversation was carried out between Nazila Ghanea, University Lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, and Sultana Afdhal, an Oxford student from Qatar and published author.  

The seminar shared first-hand observations about women’s rights in the member states of the Gulf Co-operation Council. Issues around the scope, pace, focus and direction of women’s rights in the countries of the GCC – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – were discussed in an engaging way, with participants joining in with their knowledge of the region and by drawing parallels with other domestic contexts.

What stood out in the observations, which were focused on Qatar, were those outlining the pace and trajectory of change over recent decades, consideration of how the domestic context shapes the uptake of rights, the gap between legislation and implementation, the issues faced by citizens versus expatriate communities, the specific reality of female domestic workers, and the particular issues related to family law matters.The Women’s Rights Research Seminar (WRRS) at Oxford was founded in 2009 with the initial aim of directing interdisciplinary scholarly attention to the legal status of women in Iran. Since then, the research group has broadened its purview to the rights of women in the Middle East, covering topics such as the politics of fertility, women in ethnic minorities, and the treatment of women in states governed and influenced by Islamic law and jurisprudence. It is run by Binesh Hass, Soraya Tremayne, Mastan Ebtehaj and Nazila Ghanea. The group receives a grant from the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s to cover the travel costs of speakers at its twice-termly seminars.

Nazila Ghanea is University Lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford and she teaches on the Masters in International Human Rights Law.  She is currently part of a 2 year research project considering the domestic impact of UN human rights treaty ratification on the member states of the Gulf-Cooperation Council. 


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