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Qatar Gets the Red Card on Human Rights

in QATAR, 26/04/2011

The US State Department’s 2010 Human Rights Report on Qatar has been released, and it shows that Qatar is still failing miserably when it comes to LGBT rights. Same sex relations continue to be illegal and come with heavy penalties.

As outlined in the report:

“The law prohibits same-sex relations between men but is silent concerning same-sex relations between women. Under the criminal law, a man convicted of having sexual relations with another man or boy younger than 16 years old is subject to a sentence of life in prison. A man convicted of having sexual relations with another man older than 16 years old is subject to a sentence of seven years in prison under section 285 of the criminal law. There were an unknown number of cases before the courts during the year. There were no lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) organizations in the country. During the year no violence was reported against LGBT persons, but there was an underlying pattern of discrimination towards LGBT persons based on conservative cultural and religious values prevalent in the society.”

Although the report states that the law is silent on same sex relations between women, it is no secret that Qatari lesbians (or for that matter, females who are deemed too “masculine” often referred to as Boyat’s) have been sent for “rehabilitation” and “re-education”. The fact that there are no LGBT organizations in the country able to offer support, to advocate for the LGBT community, or to collect meaningful information and data makes for a situation that lacks transparency on the issue.

Also suspicious is the claim that there was no violence reported against LGBT persons in 2010. Of course, as with most groups who are discriminated against, and in this case deemed illegal, victims of violence and abuse are almost guaranteed not to step forward, therefore an accurate understanding of what LGBT persons are facing in Qatar is almost impossible to figure out.

Furthermore, on the issue of HIV, Qatar has again fared poorly. It is their policy to deport migrant workers who are discovered to be HIV positive, which is often diagnosed in medical screenings needed to get a resident’s permit. Last year, 135 newly recruited foreign workers were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, were deemed “unfit” and were deported.

The report also outlines the grim situation faced by migrant workers who are often discriminated against and have their ability to travel freely greatly limited. Women also face a tough time which is preventing full involvement in work and society. The internet is governed and sites are frequently blocked. And much progress is still needed when it comes to freedom of the press, with most news organizations in the country taking part in self-censorship to avoid running afoul of authorities, or rocking any boats and putting jobs as risk. The recent arrest of a Qatari blogger is also troublesome.

All in all, compared to many of Qatar’s neighbours, it is fair to say that the country is more progressive. By making headlines with winning the host duties for the World Cup in 2022, the purchasing of London’s famed Harrods, and taking a leading role in the Arab world when it comes to Libya, it is clear that Qatar is trying to create an image for itself in the world as not only a player, but a leader. However, this report shows that the country has plenty of work to do at home before it can be taken seriously on the world stage.
 

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