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Saudi Arabia and LGBT Rights

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The modern Kingdom of Arabia was established in the year 1932 and occupies the Arabian Peninsula.  The Kingdom is a geographically strategic location and has provided support to pilgrims moving to Makah and Medina since old days.  Before the unification of this Kingdom, it had been made up of smaller regions that were controlled by tribal rulers. Even the current royal family represents one of the minor tribes of the central parts of Arabia.

At around the 18th century, a group referred to as Wahhabi developed expansionists’ ideas and later became a movement. This was followed by fluctuation of Al Saud territory (the territory ruled by the modern-day royal family) over a period of nearly one and half century. For a period of up to the late 1920s, Abdul Aziz, who was the leader of Al Saud, carried out a series of wars. Neighboring tribes were conquered leading to rapid expansion which gave birth to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the year 1932.The founding King and his sons ruled this kingdom through 1932 to the late twentieth century. The Kingdom is run as an absolute monarchy.

This country gained fame after its role in the oil crises of 1973 which were closely followed  by global skyrocketing   oil prices.  The country’s importance increased politically, as its wealth multiplied. When Abdul Aziz’s kingdom came to an end; the successor was King Khalid. His succession to throne was followed by a threat of dissent as result of the rise of an Islamist group in mid-1979. The most successful reign was probably the reign of Fahd which saw this kingdom become the world largest producer of oil. King Fahd came to power in the year 1982 and brought this country’s wealth and infrastructural development to an enormous boost. Consequently, the standards of living improved magnificently.

The country faced an international outcry before the year 1991 when this nation became an ally to the US in the Gulf War. The major event of the very beginning of this millennium was Islamists’ terrorist attacks, which were aimed at opposing the leadership of the day.  This was later followed by the rise to power of king Abdullah who succeeded King Fahd in the year 2005. This ruler is credited with having carried out a series of mild reforms that further modernized many sectors of this country starting with infrastructural development.

In the year 1938, oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in commercial quantities, and this turned the fortunes of the Kingdom around. After the end of the Second World War, oil exportation begun, and the Kingdom started the development of infrastructure according to the dreams of the founding king. Ports, roads, social amenities, and infrastructure developed steadily.  This combination of events has developed this state to its current status - now it is a symbol and an epitome of modern economic and infrastructural refinement.

This infrastructural development has boosted the economic growth through increased investment opportunities and other services. There is also free public education and free and advanced public health care for all. Additionally, the country has followed an advanced social service plan, with state-of-of-the-art health research systems and equipment.

The laws in the Kingdom are royal decrees along with laws that are derived from the Islamic religion. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has had difficulties with providing the protection of human rights, as some of the human right recommendations are considered to be deviant in this society.  The society can be said to be Islamic. The earliest leaders who envisaged the Kingdom such as Wahhabi dreamt of a kingdom that would be dedicated to pure Islamic teachings.  The early Kingdom that followed afterward was lead through Islamic rules and regulations. The leader, one of  Wahhabi’s friends, used Islamic teachings; he  was referred to as sheikh. Under his leadership, people prospered, and most of them attributed this prosperity to Islam. In addition, the Kingdom is considered to be the birthplace of the Islam religion. Consequently, Islam has played a vital role in this society’s social, economic, and legal aspects.  The people’s lives are controlled by the directives from Quran verses in addition to the hadith. 

The responses of this nation to external influence has for a long time been either dictated or advised by Islam. Similarly, various pieces of advice and recommendations, for instance the ones targeting eradication of hunger as a form of human suffering, are welcome. However, others such as the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual are considered unacceptable (Keen, 2007). This is because the Quran recognizes only two genders: male and female. It allows nothing between.  Such acts as sodomy or lesbianism are punishable by the Islamic law and are not tolerable in the Islamic community.  This has been the force that has led to the behavior of the Saudi Arabian governments towards the rights of LGBT.

For instance, the authorities do not take kindly many forms of demonstration of demand of human rights, especially if they are related to homosexuality.  The authorities also suppress the rights of the women, girls and even foreign workers in this Kingdom.  Many people have been put through unfair trials or detention. Furthermore, public executions take place, and human right defenders face trials when they try to express their views. They face even worse predicament by trying to mobilize and teach people about their rights.

The future of LGBT rights in Arabia is almost here. Although homosexuality is condemned by Quran, there are several loopholes in the law that has led to its widespread practice.  For instance, some Islamic cultures allow men to be attracted to good looking young males. This attraction is not considered evil.  Secondly, some societies have argued that there is particularly nothing wrong with lesbianism as no penetration is involved.  They reason that homosexual actions practiced by the females should be punished in a less harsh manner.  The final act of adulteration to resistance of homosexuality lays in the fact that the sharia law mainly deals with public behavior (Whitten, 2012).  This law is not particularly interested with inward or personal behavior and would not strongly condemn such behavior if not displayed in the public.

For the above reasons, a good number of people in Saudi Arabia are gay, lesbians, bi- or transsexual. Most of them do not practice in the public and therefore are not strongly condemned (Whitten, 2012). 

There has been a wide range of revolutions that have taken place, some of which allow women to vote and hold elective positions. These were unimaginable in the past, but  take place now . For this reason, it can be argued that the government will someday recognize LGBT rights. This view is based on the fact that such activities are taking place now despite being considered illegal.

Nation’s Specific Standing on LGBT-Rights: Laws, Social Recognition and Efforts to Minimize Discrimination, UN-Involvement and History

Saudi Arabia is a country with a large population of Muslims.  The leadership and the authority of this nation use laws that are translated directly from Quran. For this reason, the hadith as well as Quranic verses form the core of the law. These laws condemn homosexuality as a sin. Other acts that could indicate or promote this such as crass dressing are also considered deviant.  In Saudi Arabia, gay people, trans-sexual acts, and their expression is considered illegal.  LGBT rights are not accepted, and homosexuality is generally unacceptable especially by the laws. In addition, it is considered a sin. All actions of homosexuality are punishable by the law (Ungar, 2000).  It involves the corporal and capital punishment and also imprisonment.  The authorities and the laws do not accept the rights of LGBT.

Socially, the LGBT‘s treatment varies. The majority think that this is a sin. The practitioners and sometimes the suspects are required to be punished not by the law but the society. Acts such as banishment are still encouraged by the law and are done by the society.  Acts of sodomy are punishable through flogging or stoning and are sometimes done by members of the society (Long & Human Rights Watch, 2009). In 2002, three men were beheaded due to sodomy and marriage between themselves. Such actions are generally not accepted by the conservative members of the society while the minority is fears talking afraid of detention or torture.

Although the king has advanced through allowing more rights to various groups, for example women, hardly anything has been done concerning LGBT. This group remains illegal; their activities are punishable by the law.

The UN has engaged in the Saudi Arabia immensely. This organization pushes for justice to all groups. In addition to pushing for recognition of rights to various groups, it has been vocal and has supported fair trials of people charged with various crimes including LGBT. It also pushes that people arrested on this ground should be allowed having access to a lawyer and should not be tortured. It also advocates that children are not charged alongside adults. It supports the review of death sentence. However, since this organization recognizes the sovereignty of all nations, it leaves it upon Saudi Arabia to implement and recognize LGBT rights, which has not happened up to date (Dijk & Driel, 2007).

UNDP, as a UN body, has also been actively involved in the history of Saudi Arabia. Due to its mandate and responsibility to help nation attain faster development , this organization has been very active in Saudi Arabia. It has anchored and structured its activities to fit the five-year development plans that Saudi Arabia has. It has been involved in the developmental sectors such as infrastructural development, health, trade, agriculture, as well as exploitation of oil resources.  UN has also been active in assisting this nation in achieving the Millennium Development Goals of 2015. This is crucial, since it leads to reduction of poverty in the world and boosts faster development.

UNDP has the mandate to transfer some of its wide experience to other nations. In the health and welfare sub-sector, UNDP has translated and taught the Arabians of the impending dangers that exist with failure to recognize gay rights. This is because discrimination of LGBT has been a huge blow to fight against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV and AIDS. UNDP has emphasized that decriminalization of LGBT will make people to come out for sexual health freely (Wright, Colgan, Creegany, & McKearney, 2006).

A Brief Introduction of Saudi Arabia and Its History Concerning the Topic and Committee

Homosexuality in the Arab world has been driven both by human sense of curiosity and effects of globalization where undesirable information is availed to all. For instance, some Islam cultures exemplify the attraction of men to beautiful male youths. Additionally, some scholars have argued that Quran condemns same sex lust but not same sex love. Homosexuality in the Saudi Arabian culture dates back to coming of Islam and maybe even earlier . The Islamic religion describes it fully and fixes the punishment. Naturally, the human rights concept, especially the one of LGBT rights, is a rather new concept in the Islamic world as in comparison to  other parts of the world.  The rise of homosexual activities has affected Saudi Arabia, as it has dented the image of Islam. Additionally, the human right requirement for this state is to recognize that LGBT rights cannot be readily accepted by a nation that has taken a leading role in spreading Wahhabi’s Islam. This puts this nation in an awkward position. 

How the Issue Affects Saudi Arabia

The issue of LGBT has affected the nation of Saudi Arabia in many ways. First this has made this nation to be pointed at due to its maltreatment of minority groups such as homosexuals. The human right commission of this nation is based on the teachings of Quran, and its view of LGBT is similar to that of the government (O'Brien, 2009). Therefore, it does not recognize such rights and groups and cannot protect them from the government. As seen in the Third Millennium Meeting of the UN, the country’s leadership was brought to task over such international human rights violations.  The country defended itself by simply stating that it cannot accept ideologies from other sources.

Despite the strained international relationship, this country has had challenges in healthcare delivery. This happens in that the minority, especially from LGBT, cannot access health care freely due to fear of persecution or arrest. This has been a great blow to the fight against HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.  Most importantly, it is crucial to remember that people affected, namely the LGBT, contribute to the economic health of a nation. They should be given an enabling environment to live and work. When such people lack peace of mind through arrests, detention, and intimidation, the whole economy loses as they cannot engage themselves creatively in development.  Additionally, their dependents and loved ones are left vulnerable when such people are executed or when they are physically or emotionally injured through flogging.

Saudi Arabia Policies with Respect to the Issue and Their Justification for These Policies

The Saudi government policies concerning the LGBT rights are directed against them being recognized.  The justification given to this is that any homosexual activity is unlawful according to the sharia law. In addition, all homosexual activities in this country are punishable by the law, with the punishment ranging from lashes to execution (Balkin, 2004).

This is very well stipulated in the laws of this nation with an aim of protecting Saudi as an Islam state. The government does everything in its power to protect this religion. However, some form of punishments including death sentences has not been exercised lately. The last group of people to be executed was the three Yemeni nationals in the year 2002. After wards, the authorities have been careful with such sentences, maybe to escape international criticism. The authorities have only been raiding parties and arresting suspects who are later punished either through flogging or imprisonment.

Quotes from Saudi Arabia’s Leaders about Homosexuality

Various leaders from this nation have expressed their ideas concerning the rights of LGBT. The most referred to quotes is the one from Prince Abdul Aziz who stated’’ we cannot take foreign ideologies and absorb them readily.’’ He said this in a UN meeting when he was brought to task about his government’s reluctances to recognize LGBT rights.  This made various people in attendance to feel like his nation was unwilling to cooperate with the majority of the world due to pride. However, this can be used to show how conservative his nation was despite the suffering that various people faced due to events they had very little control over.  King Fahd also said, “It is of significance to maintain good morals and avoid laws that can increase deviant behavior”. At the time, his kingdom was not under pressure to recognize LGBT rights but there was a public outcry over increase in death sentences (Hashemi-Najafabadi, 2010). In spite of the above statement, it is of importance to recognize the minority groups and understand them instead of forcing them to behave like the majority. 

Statistics to Support This Stand

One of the most shocking statistics from our times is the execution of the three Yemenis in the year 2000. Afterwards, no executions have taken place, but the government reports an average of 9 persons charged in the law courts annually since the year 2002. Interestingly, the media houses reports of a higher number. Additionally, due to these policies, the religious police have been terrorizing citizens on countless occasions. One of such occasions was fixed  recently when they flashed children from a mall where they were enjoying a dinosaur show. They do such things quite often in pretense of safeguarding sex laws. 

What Saudi Arabia believes should be done to address the issue;

The government of Saudi Arabia has done much to caution the citizens considering the fact that the leadership has not changed the laws, since most of them are almost impossible to alter. The leadership has resulted in flogging and imprisonment rather than executions. This is a wide step towards protecting the lives of the citizen. The government can be commended for this move, as it protects the minority without offending the majority.

Conventions and Resolutions that Saudi Arabia Has Signed or Ratified

One of the greatest UN resolutions that Saudi Arabia has signed is the Millennium Development Goals. This commits all the nations of the world to reducing poverty levels to a half in the year 2015.  The country has also been a contributor to the UN aid, especially for Islamic nations. However, critics argue that this aid has so many strings attached to it. They further argue that it compels the recipients to change to Wahhabis Islam.  This nation also ratified the UN resolution to establish a human right commission. The only shortfall is that theirs is not established in the international human rights. On the other hand, Saudi government failed to recognize LGBT rights (Ferber, Holcomb, & Wentling, 2013). 

The Saudi government has supported the Millennium Development Goals and has worked closely with UNDP to eradicate poverty in the country and in the neighboring states. On the other hand, the Saudi government has not supported the move to recognize LGBT rights either in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. The Saudi government believes that every government should run its own policies according to unique characteristics of its people. That was the reason why it did not readily accept the LGBT rights.

What Saudi Arabia would like to accomplish in the committee's resolution;

In the committee’s resolution, the Saudi Arabian government wishes to convince everyone that failure to recognize LGBT does not mean an outright disregard of human rights. It has also reiterated its commitment to protecting both human rights and preventing degradation of morals as a firm foundation of the prosperous society (Lichter, 2009).

How the positions of other countries affect Saudi Arabia's position

The position of other countries especially the ones that recognize and support LGBT have sparkled many human right movements in Arabia. Some people argue that it has promoted the spread of homosexual activities in Saudi Arabia. It has also made Saudi Arabia to be viewed as a country that is not ready to recognize international human rights.

Conclusion

Saudi Arabia is in a particularly critical position as it has to absorb two opposing forces without crumbling. First, it has to attain the goals of traditionalist and religious founders while retaining a good image of a modern society. The traditionalist are still very strong and the king could be having difficulties of implementing what he think is good for this country. However as seen, there have been notable development toward recognition of minority which is commendable. However, more comprehensive reforms need to be done even faster. This will be very essential in creating a society which every member belongs to rightfully. 

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