Country profile of Saudi Arabia. LGBT people are Saudi Arabia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death. under Sharia Law.
Types of criminalisation
- Criminalises LGBT people
- Criminalises sexual activity between males
- Criminalises sexual activity between females
- Imposes the death penalty
Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 2004, which criminalises acts of ‘sodomy’ and ‘sexual intercourse’ between people of the same sex. These provisions carry a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. Both men and women are criminalised under this law.
The Constitution of Qatar designates Islam as the state religion, and Islamic law as the main source of legislation. As such, in addition to the Penal Code, Qatar operates an interpretation of Sharia law which criminalises sexual activity between men, under which it is possible that the death penalty can be imposed.
There is some limited evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, however reports are rare. There have been some reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, however reporting of incidents is limited due to the LGBT community not being able to be open about their identities.
The decision to give Qatar the task of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been heavily criticised due to its record on labour rights and laws criminalising same-sex sexual activity. One FIFA delegate, Director of Football Against Racism Piara Powar, stated in September that the organisation would try to secure legislative change: “Qatar wants to host the tournament at the start of a new decade, they will want to present an internationally welcoming face and with FIFA’s help we are sure it will be possible to win over the Qataris so that they come into line with the rest of the world, including other countries in the Gulf and Middle East and change the law on homosexuality”.
In October, Qatar was one of a number of Gulf States proposing to introduce tests to prevent LGBT individuals from entering the country. Director of the Public Health Department of Kuwait, Dr. Yousuf Mendakar, explained that the planned proposal would see health centres conduct medical checks on travellers in which their sexual orientation could allegedly be detected. The proposal did not materialise.
In October, in advance of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Human Rights Watch reported that security forces have been arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to ill-treatment in detention in the country. Human Rights Watch interviewed six LGBT Qataris, including four transgender women, one bisexual woman, and one gay man. All said that Preventive Security Department officers detained them in an underground prison in Al Dafneh, Doha, where they were verbally harassed and subjected to physical abuse, ranging from slapping, to kicking and punching until they bled. One woman said she lost consciousness. According to the interviewees, security officers also inflicted verbal abuse, extracted forced confessions, and denied detainees access to legal counsel, family, and medical care. All six said that they forced to sign pledges indicating that they would “cease immoral activity.”
Further reports in October claimed that Qatari police forces regularly use gay dating apps to entrap men, subjecting them to sexual and physical violence before arresting them.
An article by Human Rights Watch reported that, according to people interviewed, the government monitors and arrests LGBT people based on their online activity. It also reports the arrest of a gay man in 2014 for alleged same-sex conduct. The man was detained for weeks and was subjected to verbal abuse and sexual harassment, and his phone was searched.
The US Department of State report for 2020, like reports in previous years, did not reference any arrests or prosecutions under the law.
ILGA’s State Sponsored Homophobia report observed that while “technically it is possible that Muslim men could be put to death for same-sex sexual behaviours… it does not appear that any person has been executed for this reason or at all.”
In June, a popular Polish Instagram user was arrested in Doha and detained for two months, allegedly for his perceived sexual orientation. Upon release he was arrested again, and later left Qatar.
In November, an official ambassador for the Qatari World Cup described homosexuality as “damage in the mind”. In an interview with German broadcaster Khalid Salman, a former Qatar international footballer, said “They have to accept our rules here. [Homosexuality] is haram. You know what haram means? . . . I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”
In late 2021, a number of high-profile sports players drew attention to the ongoing criminalisation and persecution of LGBT people in Qatar. In October, Olympic diver Tom Daley expressed his view that countries that criminalise LGBT people should not be permitted to host international sporting tournaments, specifically referencing the 2022 World Cup scheduled in Qatar. In November, the Australian footballer Josh Cavallo, who had recently came out publicly as gay, said that the fact that Qatar maintains the possibility of the death penalty for same-sex sexual activity is something he’s “very scared of and [he] wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that”. Later in November, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton wore an LGBT Pride flag on his helmet during the Qatar Grand Prix and spoke out against the country’s human rights record.
The US Department of State report stated there were no reports of violence against LGBT persons who largely hid their sexual orientation due to a pattern of discrimination against them. Furthermore, the report stated that due to social and religious conventions, there were no LGBT organisations, gay pride marches, or gay rights advocacy events. Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report found that LGBT people are subject to legal and societal discrimination, and same-sex relationships must be hidden as a result.
An American university cancelled an event at its Qatar campus featuring a prominent Lebanese band, Mashrou Leila, after an online backlash sparked safety concerns. The band’s lead singer is openly gay, and they received significant public attention in 2017 after their display of support for LGBT rights at a concert in Egypt led to a crackdown against the LGBT community
Qatar initiated censorship of LGBT rights news coverage. ABC News reported, for example, that several articles that pertained to issues affecting the LGBT community had been excised from the Doha edition of the New York Times International Edition.
The United Arab Emirates criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.
Oman criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.
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