In March of last year, the independent Emirate of Qatar, an Islamic nation on the Arabian Peninsula, held its first Domestic Violence Awareness week. For Gonzaga Law professor Mary Pat Treuthart, that week was a highlight of her Spring 2012 work helping students at the Qatar University College of Law in the city of Doha study domestic violence law. As a part of the course, Treuthart assisted the students in drafting initial provisions for the country’s first domestic violence criminal law.
Building Domestic Violence Law in Qatar
As a pro bono legal specialist under the auspices of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA—ROLI) and its Qatar Country Director Marlana Valdez, Treuthart and Illinois lawyer Barbara Fritsche co-taught two sex-segregated sections of a domestic violence clinic course to 19 women and 6 men. Students in this special topics course learned lawyering skills such as critical thinking, interviewing and counseling, legal research, and oral advocacy.
The capstone project for the semester involved drafting the initial provisions for the country’s first ever domestic violence criminal law. Explains Treuthart, “Qatar currently has no laws that address DV but the country’s National Development Strategy (NDS) 2011-2016 requires the passage of legislation to criminalize domestic violence. In addition, Qatar is a recent signatory to the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women. (CEDAW). The students’ work in this course is an important first step in meeting the NDS mandate and the equality obligations under CEDAW.”
Focusing on the Impacts of Domestic violence
During the first annual Qatar Domestic Violence Awareness Week in March, the students made a series of public presentations designed to educate participants about the psychological, social, economic, and legal aspects of domestic violence.
Commenting about the significance of the week’s events, College of Law Dean Dr. Hassan Okour said, “An important aspect of lawyers’ professional responsibility is to inform the public about legal issues and help find solutions. By participating in this program, our students are becoming excellent civic-minded lawyers who will contribute to the improvement of Qatar society. We are deeply impressed by their commitment to this issue and their hard work in preparing and organizing this event.”
Finding Collaborative Solutions in Qatar
On May 28, the students held a press conference where they unveiled their draft legislation along with their Action Plan to Stop Domestic Violence in Qatar. The next step will be to present the students’ work to the Supreme Council of Family Affairs for its consideration.
In a weekly newsletter to the university community, Qatar University President and Professor Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad commented on the unprecedented participation of the workshops taught by Treuthart and Fritsche.
“I would like to make a special mention of the six male students who are participating in the course….(T)hese young lawyers-in-training are role models for other young men at QU, in Qatar and the region. I applaud (all of) the students’ keen sense of community responsibility and commitment…It is a proud moment for us all when what we provide here at QU in our programs and courses translates into a critical community service that will impact individuals, groups, families, and communities in Qatar and contribute to driving social awareness on a wide range of issues.”
Working on Global Women’s Human Rights Issues
During her 2011-2012 academic year sabbatical, Treuthart traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia as a member of the delegation from the Seattle-based Center for Women and Democracy, and spent a month in Rome as a visiting scholar at LUISS Guido Carli, researching women’s human rights issues. Treuthart calls her time at Qatar University, “the highlight of an exciting year spent in various locales across the globe working on women’s human rights issues.”