Society

Qatar drops the criminal prosecution against a Mexican woman who wasn't married

A Mexican woman who worked for the FIFA World Cup organization committee faced a 7-year prison sentence and 100 lashes despite having been assaulted. Mexico advised her to marry the aggressor to avoid the sentence of an extramarital affair.

Paola Schietekat at the Senate of Mexico speaking about her case in Qatar
Paola Schietekat at the Mexican Senate urging for better protection protocols from Mexican oversea authorities | March 24, 2022

On June 6, 2021, a Mexican woman was assaulted in Qatar by a work colleague she considered as a friend.

The man entered her apartment while she was asleep. She had her door unlocked like many other people who live in Doha, one of the safest places in the world, according to her recount of the events.

Paola Schietekat brought charges against this Colombian national for home invasion and assault the next day after having taken refuge in an hotel room in case her aggressor decided to come back. She was accompanied by the Mexican Consul of Qatar.

However, the attacker alleged to the Police that they were in a romantic relationship, which opened charges against Paola Schietekat. Being involved in an extramarital relationship is actually illegal in Qatar.

"All of a sudden, my complaint no longer mattered. Everything centered around the extramarital affair, while under my abaya, the robe I was advised to wear to look like a 'woman of good morals', I still had purple bruises, almost black," from the assault.

At the end of June, she was allowed to come back to Mexico but the investigation was still underway in Qatar.

The woman, who lived for several years in the Middle East, came to Qatar in February 2020 to work for the organization of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the country. A "dream job" for this behavioral scientist and football fan. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the entity responsible for the operations of the World Cup, helped her leave the country.

In December, Qatar prosecutor's office found her guilty of the charges based on the information from her phone. Authorities had taken it from her if she didn't want to go to jail during the investigations.

The assailant was acquitted of the assault charges "because cameras didn't point directly at the door and there was no way to verify the assault actually occurred", despite the medical report, according to Paola Schietekat. Meanwhile, she was sentenced to seven years of prison and 100 lashes for the extramarital relationship.

An alternative to avoid the sentence was to get married to the man, as advised by the legal assistance Mexico provided her. Schietekat is also critical of the actions and lack of support she had received from her country representatives.

As thousands of women will travel to the country in November-December for the World Cup, she has urged the Mexican Senate last month to reassess protocols to avoid similar cases. "We must reevaluate and review the protocols and if necessary develop new ones because we cannot accept that a woman is advised by her own embassy to marry her aggressor."

The two co-defendants on February agreed to present a valid marriage certificate so that they can both avoid the execution of sentences, according to a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico in February.

The Qatari judge eventually decided to end the criminal proceeding on April 3. Details of the arguments from the defense, and whether the marriage certificate has actually been presented, were not given.

The Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry stated it is "working on a strategy of preventive protection" given the "cultural and legal differences" between the two countries before the World Cup.

In 2016, a Dutchwoman accused a foreign national of having drugged and raped her. He claimed the relationship was consensual. She was convicted to one year of suspended prison sentence and fined 809 dollars before being able to leave the country. The man was sentenced to 100 lashes for the extramarital relation and 40 lashes for consumption of alcohol.

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