"The 2022 men’s World Cup host nation Qatar is known for its human rights
abuses relating to women, migrant workers and those from the LGBTQ+ community.
Same-sex relationships in Qatar are illegal and punishable by up to seven years
in prison. As Qatar is hosting one of the most popular global sporting events,
these human rights abuses are now under scrutiny on the world stage.
The latest issue arose as the England and Wales captains were set to defy Fifa
by wearing “OneLove” armbands during the tournament. The rainbow armbands are a
gesture against discrimination and in support of LGBTQ+ rights. However, on the
eve of the tournament, Fifa announced its own social campaign armbands and its
president, Gianni Infantino, stated “we have clear regulations on armbands.”
It was said that players found to be wearing the rainbow armbands could face
on-the-pitch sanctions, including yellow cards. That threat seemed to have
worked, as the teams subsequently decided not to wear the armband, explaining
in a joint statement from several football associations:
We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit
regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we
cannot put our players in a situation where they might be booked, or even
forced to leave the field of play.
There has been a passive acceptance of discrimination from many, including Fifa
and the UK government. This is reflected in comments made by UK foreign
secretary James Cleverley who stated that “a little bit of flex and compromise”
needs to be shown by LGBTQ+ fans attending the Qatar World Cup. Cleverly urged
fans to be “respectful of the host nation.”
In response to the issues with Qatar, the UK Football Association states that
it has received “the unequivocal answer that all fans, including those from
LGBTQ+ communities, will be welcome at Qatar 2022, and that the safety and
security of every fan is Qatar’s top priority.”
However, just two weeks before the start of the World Cup a Qatari official
stated to German media that homosexuality is “damage in the mind” and said that
gay people “have to accept our rules here”.
These comments seemingly appear misguided on the surface but they conceal a
much bigger issue. There should be no “flex and compromise” around human
rights. Criminalising LGBTQ+ people is not a cultural choice but a human rights
assault and it is a universally important issue. Yet the lines appear blurred
for many in the case of the World Cup."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics