Five women call for significant airport examination changes after suing Qatar Airways over an incident in 2020. The ordeal left them with lasting trauma.

An excessive display

The women took their claim to the New South Wales Supreme court, where they sued Qatar Airways for enacting “unlawful physical contact” on them two years ago. The women had been five of over a dozen others who were made to leave a Qatar Airways flight after a newborn baby was discovered abandoned in a plastic bag. The event, which occurred on 2nd October 2020 at Hamad International Airport, signalled the need for revisions to Qatari policy, especially regarding the treatment of women. The victims are also seeking damages from the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority after suffering from PTSD and other issues following the ordeal, which has had a detrimental effect on their mental health.

Lasting damage

Women on nine other flights were also subjected to a similar experience to the Australian women, whereby they were escorted off the planes at gunpoint in Doha. They were then made to endure intense examinations as authorities tried to determine the baby’s mother. Some of the women were told to remove their underwear and forced to undergo invasive gynaecological tests in a bid to determine whether they had just given birth or not. Some of the women were reportedly not given any explanation as to why they were being examined and were unable to provide informed consent.

The statement of claim filed in court expressed that the women had experienced economic loss due to “needing to take medical leave from work.” Marque Lawyers partner, Damian Sturzaker, communicated his support for the women in a comment to the Guardian, simultaneously condemning the Qatar government after it “gravely breached their human rights.”

A sticker on a lamppost with the words "Every Human Has Rights"
Every human has rights: Qatar Airways sued for ‘unlawful physical contact’ © Markus Spiske

A threat to female travellers?

The situation raises concerns for those travelling to Qatar for the World cup this winter amid worries over the country’s promise to protect women’s rights.

Currently, sex and childbirth out of wedlock are criminal offences in Qatar.

The lawyers of the five women have called for the country to ensure the safety of female fans flying over for the football, stating that “female travellers are entitled to an assurance from Qatar that their human rights will be respected.”

Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa Al Thani offered his “sincerest apology for what some female travellers went through,” and it was confirmed that one of the airport’s security officials was charged before being handed a suspended prison sentence. 

Despite the prime minister showing signs of accountability, neither the government nor Qatar Airways have responded to the women’s appeals prompting Marque Lawyers to file a complaint on behalf of the victims as this was a further breach of their rights.

What do you think about the treatment of these women? Do you think more needs to be done? Let us know in the comments!

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