Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Bachelor Ban

Even though Qatar is a very Westernized country, there are occasional moments where I am distinctly reminded that Qatar is not like the suburbs of Chicago. Take shopping at the local malls. Being a female, I'm never restricted access and can enter anytime I wish (provided I'm not scandalously dressed of course!) However, it's a different case for males, particularly single males, and even more so for single laboring immigrant males (who currently make up about 1M out of Qatar's 1.7M people). Malls and even public places frequently institute 'family only' hours or days, restricting the access of single-males. Some apply this mandate to all males, regardless of race or appearance, but others seem to employ it only against " bad-smelling, poorly-dressed adult men".

A recent newspaper inquiry tested the basis for denying admittance to single males. The paper found that generally, well-dressed and proper single males were allowed in while those in worker clothes or with scruffy appearances were denied. Also, some reports have found that Western and Arab males would be let in, but Asians were not. Two single professors at Carnegie Mellon expressed concern over this ban, as they are Pakistani and Bangladeshi and could be mistaken for being part of the laboring class.

While 'family only' time has been a practice here for several years, it recently made headlines over the Eid holiday, where workers had time off but were prevented from gathering in the malls, the souqs, or even the Corniche (waterfront area). Where should they go? What happens when you don't give 1M people something to do during their off hours? In the States, this situation could breed resentment and problems but Qatar has a unique solution: deport 'em. Since only Qataris are citizens, anyone else is an expat (even if born here) and could be duly deported to their home country if they act up. That certainly has a way of quelling unrest...

And unlike the States, there really is no effective way to protest or counter this 'bachelor ban' situation. Write a petition? To whom? Boycott the spots with the ban? Where are you going to go? Organize a protest? Fine- how soon that you pack your things for your deportation flight back home? :/


  1. You should have been at the Pizza and Politics! We had a great discussion about this!

  2. That's rediculous. Sometimes I wish things like that could be put in place here. But then again... that's a tough cookie to bake.