Earlier this week, a group of LGBTQ rights activists took advantage of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar to put the spotlight on the country’s treatment of LGBTQ citizens. The group, which includes You Can Play Project and Pride in Football, made demands to Qatari organizers and FIFA. It was a response to a report by Human Rights Watch that documented five alleged cases of sexual harassment and six alleged cases of severe beatings of LGBTQ people in Qatar.
Qatar has faced international pressure over its stance on LGBTQ rights since 2010. The Gulf State has long denied any wrongdoing, but has been criticized for its treatment of LGBT residents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both documented mistreatment of LGBTQ people in Qatar. They have also called on Qatar to repeal laws that target the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this year, an American reporter claimed he was denied entry into the first World Cup game between the USMNT and Wales because he wore a rainbow-themed t-shirt. Qatari officials have issued reassurances to LGBTQ fans that they are welcome to attend the World Cup, but there are still some concerns.
The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, James Cleverly, was also criticised by the LGBTQ community for attending the World Cup in an anti-gay country. Cleverly told fans that they were welcome to attend, but warned them against holding hands in public.
Peter Tatchell, a UK-based LGBTQ activist, staged a one-man protest outside the National Museum of Qatar on October 25. His stunt put the spotlight on the homophobic Gulf State and left the LGBT community in Qatar fearful. The protest ended in Tatchell being arrested and confiscated. It is the first protest by a member of the LGBTQ community in the Gulf State.
The report by Human Rights Watch also noted that Qatar does not officially prohibit same-sex sexual acts for women. However, there are reports that some transgender women were required to sign makeup pledges in government-sponsored centers. Other transgender people were warned not to wear makeup or use disabled toilets.
The United States men’s soccer team also called on Qatar to reform its laws, and the Australian men’s team released a video on Wednesday calling for Qatar to decriminalize same-sex relations. The Australian men’s soccer team has also called on the Qatari government to improve its treatment of migrant workers.
While Qatar has made great strides to improve its human rights record since the World Cup began, there are still concerns. It has been criticized for its treatment of LGBTQ residents, and the organization’s official FIFA Qatar World Cup ambassador has said that homosexuality is “damage in the mind.”
The Qatar World Cup is a key element of the country’s development plans. However, many fans feel unable to attend the event due to the country’s poor record on human rights. Similarly, members of the LGBTQ community are worried about safety during and after the World Cup. They are encouraged to speak out and raise their concerns after the tournament.