The 2022 World Cup and LGBTQ rights

The 2022 football world cup in Qatar has caused controversy because Qatar does not recognise same sex marriage or civil partnerships whereas European nation states tend to do so.

To my mind this year’s world cup has been overshadowed by politics and it’s shone a light on how little global consensus there is over the issue of LGBTQ rights.

LGBT rights in Qatar

(Or lack of them!)

  • Sexual acts between men can be punished with prison sentences of between one and three years, and flogging.
  • Muslims can be sentenced to death for having sex with another man, but this is because extra-marital sex is sanctionable by death and the state doesn’t recognise same sex marriage.
  • Trans women can be imprisoned for ‘impersonating a woman’ and forcibly de-transitioned while in jail.
  • Campaigning for LGBTQ rights is also legal in Qatar

The 2022 World Cup and the LGBTQ debate

Initially the Qatari authorities said they would allow the display of LGBTQ imagery at world cup games, but just before the tournament began they said they would be forcibly removing any spectators displaying such symbols, such as the Rainbow Flat.

This is line with announcements from the authorities that gay and trans football fans should respect the norms of Qatari culture while in public, and should hide their sexuality when in public by showing no signs of public affection.

FIFA also announced that any players displaying support for LGBTQ rights, such as by wearing rainbow armbands, would be fined.

There have been reports of some hotels refusing to allow same sex couples to stay as well as eye witness accounts of police brutality against gay people.

No global consensus on LGBTQ rights

Qatar’s failure to recognise the basic human rights of LGBT people to freedom of expression is clearly against the The United Nations Position on Human Rights, in violation of International Human Rights Law.

However, there is NOT universal agreement at the level of nation states on LGBTQ rights. In fact we are nowhere near achieving a global consensus around this issue.

According to the Human Rights Campaign same sex marriage is only legal in 32 countries, meaning that Qatar is actually in the global majority, while the various activists from the various European Nations who have been championing LGBTQ rights during the World Cup are from countries in the global minority over this issue.

Most European countries have full equal recognition of same-sex marriage but the majority of countries do not recognise this and many, like Qatar, enforce harsh punishments for adults who same-sex consensual sex.

‘Enlightened’ European states have long ignored human rights abuses abroad

The difficult question is how should European nations deal with the majority of countries who don’t respect the sexual preferences of LGBTQ people?

At the moment the policy is to basically ignore what we would define as human rights abuses and carry on trading with countries such as Qatar. To be blunt, economic relations trump universal human rights around sexuality and sexual identity.

To my mind FIFA giving the 2022 World Cup to Qatar isn’t particularly unusual, it’s merely a more overt recognition of the way most Nation States (who are represented by FIFA) deal with countries who abuse human rights – we welcome them as part of the international community and ignore their abuses.

I mean the World Cup was in Russia in 2018 after all, and Russia doesn’t recognise equal rights for LGBTQ people either and most European countries actively trade with China and other well known human rights abusers.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Personally I do think Western European nations are more enlightened than countries who are intolerant of LGBTQ rights, primarily because I believe in freedom of expression and don’t recognise religious authority of any kind.

But is this just me being a modernist dinosaur and out of sync with our relativistic postmodern times?

And so for me the global situation on LGBTQ rights which the World Cup has shone a light on is throughly depressing as it shows we are nowhere near progressing towards a global consensus on this issue – there is no global culture in this regard, in fact the issue is very divisive.

It’s also a reminder of the extent to which nation states put economic relations above individual human rights, and reminds us of the immense power of nation states in this regard, they seem to be at total liberty to ignore UN conventions on human rights with absolutely no consequence!

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