'Bachelor ban' in Qatar tests relations with migrant workers

Tue May 17, 2016 9:02am EDT
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By Tom Finn

AL KHOR, QATAR (Reuters) - As Nami Hader, a 30-year-old gardener from Nepal, approached the entrance to a park outside Qatar's second city Al Khor one day last month, a security guard blocked his way.

"No bachelors," the guard said.

The newly-renovated park - its boating lake, miniature golf course and neatly manicured lawns - was off-limits to men unaccompanied by women or children, the guard said. "It's for families only."

So-called "bachelor bans" that bar lone men from entering malls and parks on certain days of the week and from living in residential neighborhoods are a common, often loosely-enforced, practice in the conservative Muslim Gulf.

Local authorities say the measure, enforced by businesses and municipalities, allows families and women who live in crowded and male-dominated cities space to enjoy public facilities.

But a recent ramping up of family-only rules in Qatar is excluding the country's vast South Asian workforce, mostly young men who live as temporary residents away from their families, and cutting them off from society, rights groups say.

"I wanted to visit the park but I was turned away," said Hader. "This says to me I am not welcome."

The small Gulf Arab state's reliance on foreign workers to power a $200-billion construction boom ahead of the 2022 World Cup has drawn criticism from labor unions who say migrants are exploited and forced to live in squalid conditions.   Continued...

A woman takes a selfie with her children as they ride a boat at Aspire Park in Doha, Qatar April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon