Following the outrage that attended the forced vaginal examination of women at the Hamad International Airport in Qatar, the Qatari government has apologized to the women concerned and said the concerned airport officials will be prosecuted. Hundreds of women on 10 flights from Qatar to Australia and other countries were strip-searched and subjected to invasive physical examination when a newborn baby was found abandoned at the airport.
The incident happened on October 2 and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and other national leaders decried the treatment of women aboard Qatar Airways flight, saying the government would investigate the “appalling” experience. Human rights authorities also condemned the act, likening it to sexual assault on the women passengers involved.
Although the government of Qatar explained that the airport officials in Doha subjected the women to physical examinations to determine who delivered and abandoned the newborn baby, they stated that officials violated regulations in doing so and that the officials involved will be prosecuted. They added that abandoning a newborn at the airport is tantamount to “attempted murder,” hence the need to find the culprit.
“The subsequent procedures were taken by the authorities at the airport, including examining a number of female passengers, revealed that standard procedures were violated,” the government said. “Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office.”
Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, the country’s prime minister, and interior minister offered Qatar’s “sincerest apology” to the women involved. He said a special task force has been constituted to investigate the matter, and that the abandoned baby has been put in the care of medical and social workers for upkeep.
Like many countries in the Middle East, Qatar does not condone sex outside of marriage and unwanted pregnancies are frowned upon. Anyone found to have gotten pregnant out of wedlock stands the risk of severe punishment and imprisonment. Many female migrant workers who get pregnant in the country often try to conceal their pregnancy and then travel overseas to give birth before returning to the country.