With all the brilliant support we’ve had for our Rainbow Laces campaign, we’re feeling sporty too – but this time of excitement has been shadowed by huge concern for the welfare of LGBTQ+ players and fans alike.
The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has already faced wide criticism over the country’s persecution and criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people, which sees those engaging in same-sex relationships threatened with fines and time in prison, or even the death penalty under some circumstances.
Widespread concern about the well-being of players and fans travelling to watch the tournament has prompted the Football Association (FA) to seek and share their assurances that LGBTQ+ people will be able to attend safely under an “enabling law,” which would mean that “minor offences” are not prosecuted. However, full clarity as to what a minor offence entails has yet to be given, with the first match merely days away – and LGBTQ+ fans should not be expected to accept that their right to simply be themselves is a “minor offence” to be overlooked.
There has been some reassurance from the FA that actions such as holding hands or waving a rainbow flag at a match will be allowed, but this is little consolation to fans considering putting their welfare on the line to attend. Alongside reports that not all FIFA-recommended hotels in Qatar will accommodate same-sex couples, this is not an environment where LGBTQ+ people can reasonably be expected to feel safe or included.
A statement put out by several fan clubs worldwide including Three Lions Pride (England) and The Rainbow Wall (Wales) in April noted that “all we have unfortunately seen from those in charge are slogans not safety.” They also mention seeing “no details about how our trans+ members will be treated with respect through security checks.” Fan-led campaign No Pride Without All expresses similar views, stating “There is no Pride at a World Cup that criminalises human rights.”
This is not to mention the experiences of LGBTQ+ Qatari people or people living in Qatar, who have risked punishment for sharing their views and experiences online in the run-up to the World Cup. Dr Nas Mohamed, now seeking asylum in the US, spoke out about the “psychological abuse for being an LGBT person,” as well as “systemic oppression,” and a “frightening conversion therapy programme,” that Qatari LGBTQ+ people face year-round.
Here at Stonewall, we believe in a world where all LGBTQ+ people are free to be themselves, and can enjoy sport as either a fan or participant, free from fear of discrimination. But LGBTQ+ people in Qatar are being failed. Now is the time for us all to stand up, call out persecution, and demand better. This is a critical time to support the rights and wellbeing of sports players and fans across the globe.
If you agree, join our Proud Stadium and stand with LGBTQ+ people in Qatar this World Cup season. Wherever you are, you can shine a light on the injustices faced by many in Qatar and around the world. By spotlighting these injustices and standing with our friends, family and colleagues for equality, we can help build pressure on leaders across the world to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights.