LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia are some of the most regressive in the world but a local news report suggests that the kingdom might be taking a step even further. According to Saudi newspaper Oraz, prosecutors in the country are pushing for the death penalty against LGBT individuals who come out or speak freely about their sexual orientation on social media.
Prosecutors believe that the number of people wearing clothes that do not correspond to the large categorization of male or female sexes and those engaging in homosexual activities has been rising consistently. Apparently, over 50 cases of cross-dressing and 35 cases of sodomy were reported in Saudi Arabia over the last six months.
The recent publication by Oraz sparked a heated debate across the country. Even though the death penalty already exists for crimes related to non-traditional sexual identity or sexuality, it is not yet applicable for those who merely come out on social media. Thus, a push in that direction could prove to be deathly for the already repressed LGBT community in the kingdom.
One of the primary reasons that Saudi Arabia wants to crack down on LGBT rights is the fear that social media may be popularizing a “western gay agenda”. According to prosecutors, social media has enabled even marginalized communities to voice themselves and seek support within the repressive regime.
LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia have often served as a bone of contention in the kingdom’s relation with the United States. As America continues to show solidarity with the LGBT community world over, it also maintains close ties with one of the worst offenders.
When contacted by Atheist Republic, the United States State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor said that they were still investigating the authenticity of these claims.
“[We are] aware of these reports, but cannot verify their accuracy. … We continue to gather more information. … The United States works every day, both here in Washington and at our embassies and consulates around the world, to ensure that all persons can exercise their human rights, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” read its response.
Both inside the kingdom and outside its borders, LGBT individuals as well as their supporters have started using social media, the very tool being blamed for their gender identity and sexuality, to fight back against the proposed death penalty.
The kingdom’s outright rejection of LGBT rights has been a contentious subject with regards to its relations with other countries as well, particularly those constituting the United Nations. In 2015, Saudi Arabia reiterated that it would not abide by a new sustainable development goal calling for LGBT equality.
The kingdom’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubair, said clearly that no such agenda would move forward in Saudi Arabia.
“Mentioning sex in the text, to us, means exactly male and female. Mentioning family means consisting of a married man and woman,” he had said.
The kingdom also joined in opposing a resolution by some other countries that continue to impose the death penalty for LGBT-related offences.
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