Contemporary Qatari women's social progress can in part be measured through an analysis of current marriage practices. The Islamic marriage contract is a legal and religious document wherein Muslim brides indicate their expectations for post-marital life and an essential step in the marriage negotiation process. The conditions they stipulate in their marriage contracts are symbolic of the degree to which they exercise agency in their personal and professional lives as wives. As part of a larger study on marriage practices in Qatar, we collected and analyzed marriage contracts from a broad range of Qatari families. We treated these documents as archival evidence, reflecting changing bridal expectations from 1975–2013. A content analysis of contracts in our sample demonstrated an increase in the age at marriage for both Qatari men and women. The contracts also show the major areas in which brides negotiated the terms of their married lives including educational, professional, and household expectations. We read these stipulating conditions as moves to guarantee autonomy as wives.


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