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Role of Gulf Women in Arbitration.

As an integral part of the Qatari society women are bestowed great consideration in Qatar. According to the constitution all persons are equal regardless of their sex, religion, language, or race. The constitution also warranted the principle of equality between all citizens in public rights and duties. Therefore, no provision in law prohibits women from sitting as arbitrators.

The Civil and Commercial Procedures Code laid general requirements with respect to appointing arbitrators without any discrimination between men and women, article 193 of which stipulates: “An arbitrator may not be a minor, bankrupt, legally incapacitated person or a person deprived of his civil rights due to a criminal offence unless he has been rehabilitated.  If there is more than one arbitrator, the number shall, at all times, be an odd number, otherwise the arbitration shall be void. Subject to the provisions of special laws, arbitrators shall be appointed based on the arbitration agreement or an independent document”.

The new draft Arbitration Law tackled the requirements to qualify as an arbitrator in more details, article 11 of which confined the appointment of arbitrators to those certified and listed in the national registry of arbitrators in the ministry. It also stipulates that the arbitrator cannot be a minor, under guardianship, have been deprived of his civil rights by reason of a judgment against him for a felony or misdemeanor contrary to honesty or due to a declaration of his bankruptcy; even if he was rehabilitated. Subject to the aforementioned requirements the second paragraph of the same article does not require the arbitrator to be of a given nationality, unless otherwise agreed upon between the parties or provided for by law.

The new draft Arbitration Law indicated the duties of an arbitrator in more details. It required the arbitrator’s acceptance of his mission to be in writing. An arbitrator must be impartial, adhere to the principle of equality between the parties to ensure due process, and evade unnecessary delay or expenses in order to ensure an expedite and just mean to settle disputes, otherwise he must disclose any changes to the aforementioned.

Accordingly, the new draft Arbitration Law is not different than its predecessor in relation to equality between men and women when appointing arbitrators, each is entitled to be appointed subject to the fulfillment of the conditions set by the legislation without any discrimination.

Whereas Qatar International Center for Conciliation and Arbitration rules only required an arbitrator to be impartial, independent, and of a nationality other than the nationalities of the parties in case they are not of a common nationality. With no much difference Qatar Financial Center applies the same rules in this regard since it dictates impartiality and independence of arbitrators and permits determination of their required qualifications by the parties.

Legislations of the GCC Countries conform to Qatar legislation with respect to requirements to qualify as an arbitrator, they all have set general rules and requirements for any natural person to qualify as an arbitrator without any discrimination between men and women.

Though Arbitration has witnessed notable developments and growth in Qatar and the GCC countries, and their legislations impose no restrictions on women’s appointment as arbitrators, the Gulf women participation is still very insignificant in relation to Arbitration. We rarely read or hear about an appointment of a woman from the Gulf region as an arbitrator on a local, regional, or international level.

Despite the growing number of female candidates in Law Schools in the GCC Countries and the good presence of women in the legal arena as lawyers, consultants, judges, or experts, Arbitration has not been embarked upon by the Gulf women yet. Likewise, the position of women regarding actual participation in arbitral proceedings on an international scale is not significantly different from the position of Gulf women.

One statistic indicates that the number of arbitrators appointed in arbitral proceedings that took place at the ICC in Paris was 766 only 22 of them were women representing 3% and 744 of which were men representing the remaining 97%. While the number of female arbitrators appointed in arbitral proceedings that took place at the LCIA in London in 1998 was only 66 representing 1.5% of the total number.

In 2011 318 arbitrators were appointed at the ICC, 36 of which were women representing only 11.32%. These percentages reflect the insignificant participation of women in Arbitration on an international scale.

Hence, we may conclude that the minor participation of women in Arbitration is a global phenomenon. The fact that the Arbitration market is within the hands of few practitioners who are mostly men could also be an obstacle for women to embark upon Arbitration. In addition to that there is lack of a Gulf female role model in the Arbitration field which could encourage new female generations to engage in Arbitration. Big number of women start their careers in law, however very few reach high levels in the legal field, which is a phenomenon called “pipeline leak”.

Among the proposed solutions to reinforce Gulf women participation in the Arbitration process is to conduct training courses and workshops for female law schools graduates in all topics of Arbitration in both languages; Arabic and English. In addition, Arbitration institutions should endorse their lists of arbitrators with female ones. Law firms should endorse their female associates to engage in Arbitral proceedings. Finally, Gulf women may convene in professional or virtual associations – such as the website - to exchange experiences and encourage women to embark their professional lives as arbitrators.

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