Australia condemned the Qatari authorities on Oct. 26 for an invasive search performed on female passengers before a flight from Doha to Sydney following the discovery of a newborn baby.
The incident took place Oct. 2 after a newborn baby was found abandoned at Hamad International Airport before a Qatar Airways flight to the Australian city. Authorities at the airport dispatched medical and social workers to care for the baby and then attempted to locate the mother, The Associated Press reported.
The women in question were reportedly searched without their consent. Authorities forced them to remove their underwear to undergo an examination of their genitals to determine if they had given birth, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The baby is still unidentified and being cared for in Qatar, according to the outlet.
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, according to AP. “We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter.”
Some of the women who were searched are Australian citizens. The country remains closed for international travel and only allows citizens to fly home, though such flights are often delayed. Qatar Airways has operated repatriation flights throughout 2020.
Sex outside of marriage is illegal in Qatar and some women have hidden pregnancies when flying out of the country before, while others have abandoned babies to avoid prosecution, according to AP. In 2016, a Dutch woman was arrested on an adultery charge in Qatar after she said she was raped. There have been similar incidents in other Gulf states.