Child law in Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates
In her article “Family Law in the GCC and the Best Interests of the Child: The Multiple Meanings of a Vague Legal Concept”, Dr. Lena-Maria Möller, senior research fellow in the Institute’s research group on the law of Islamic countries, investigates the degree to which child law mirrors the social transformations witnessed in the Arab Gulf region. With the article Lena-Maria Möller presents findings from a research project that in 2015 received grant funding from the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.
As the best interests of the child standard remains a vague and largely undefined legal concept, its interpretation speaks volumes as to the social, cultural, economic and, not least, religious framework underlying a country’s legal system. Custody rulings decided under the standard of the child’s best interests, for instance, help us to draw conclusions about perceptions regarding gender roles in parenting, the significance of religious affiliation and idealized family models.
The analysis of Lena-Maria Möller is not limited to statutory approaches for reforming child law in the Gulf States of Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Rather, her study focuses on how the best interests of the child standard is treated in legal practice and how it is interpreted by the courts of the three countries. In this vein, Lena-Maria Möller’s research involved her travelling for two months throughout the Gulf region where she developed contacts with legal practitioners and collected literature as well as court rulings.
As her article explains, the concept of the best interests of the child has gained footing in various aspects of child law in all three examined countries. Pursuant to the codification of family law undertaken in the 2000s in all three Gulf States, the best interests of the child has been established as the fundamental principle guiding child custody matters. Nevertheless, the usage and meaning of the best interests of the child standard remains inconsistent. What is still missing in all three countries is a thoroughly grounded and all-encompassing framework to determine the best interests of the child and also an understanding of its overall function in family law.
Lena-Maria Möller, Family Law in the GCC and the Best Interests of the Child: The Multiple Meanings of a Vague Legal Concept. Max Planck Private Law Research Paper No. 19/4.
The article is accessible at SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=3343683