Somewhere over the rainbow lie Qatar’s homosexuality laws

As the FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022 spotlights the human rights record of the host, what really is Qatar’s laws on homosexuality?

The World Cup is being held in a nation with a reputation for poor human rights which forbids same-sex relations. The tournament would normally unite the world but this one has polarised opinions everywhere.

Qatari law calls for a prison sentence of one to three years for “inducing or seducing a male or a female in any way to commit illegal or immoral actions,” including the quaintly named “sodomy.” However, Penal Code 2004 directly criminalises same-sex activity and leads to sentences of up to seven years in jail.

The Muslim country operates under its interpretation of Sharia law which can lead to same-sex relationships being punished with the death penalty. Campaign groups have said members of the LGBTQ+ community have been detained and “subjected to ill-treatment in detention.” Human Rights Watch identified cases of individuals given severe and repeated beatings in custody, with detainees ordered to attend “conversion therapy sessions” at government centres as a requirement for their release.

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The problem is not confined to men. Lesbians feel equally unsafe. There is no possibility that a country like Qatar could host a similar event for women. Same-sex relationships in women’s football are commonplace and arouse very little attention from chattering fascists. There would hardly be a single team without some members under fear of imprisonment.

Such are the concerns of fans worldwide that many are considering whether to even watch the tournament on television.

Former Qatari footballer Khalid Salman – an ambassador for the World Cup – described homosexuality as “damage in the mind.” Salman also described homosexuality as “spiritual harm.”

Meanwhile, fans are appalled by the lily-livered reaction to bullying by FIFA and Qatari authorities. Numerous football federations’ plans for their teams to wear rainbow armbands were dropped in the face of outright intimidation.

Somewhere over the rainbow lie Qatar's homosexuality laws | News by Thaiger
Harry Kane’s yielded to outright bullying when he abandoned plans to wear a rainbow armband.

In a statement, the England Football Supporters’ Association said…

“Today we feel betrayed. Today we feel contempt for an organisation [FIFA] that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card for tolerance.

“Never again should a World Cup be handed out solely based on money and infrastructure.

“No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.”

The one flaw in the supporters’ statement is that this World Cup was not “handed out” on any basis at all except the magnitude of gifts handed out to FIFA officials.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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