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Human Rights Abuses in Qatar

30 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In starting, I really want to commend the Hon. Mr Hunter for the speech he has given and also recognise his decades of service as an advocate and a campaigner in the space of LGBTI rights and human rights more broadly.

I want to take this opportunity to condemn the decision of FIFA to hold the World Cup in a country that has a reputation as a human rights abuser. The human rights record of Qatar is well documented, and the Hon. Mr Hunter has detailed that history of abuse. Qatar has a history of abusing LGBTI people, women and workers. Indeed, The Guardian has reported that up to 6,500 South Asian migrant workers have died in connection with building infrastructure for the World Cup.

In its human rights report on the country in 2021, Amnesty International reported, and I quote from the report that is on their website:

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Under the guardianship system, women remained tied to their male guardian, usually their father, brother, grandfather or uncle, or for married women, to their husband. Women continued to need their guardian's permission for key life decisions to marry, study abroad…work in many government jobs, travel abroad…and receive some forms of reproductive healthcare.

Family laws continued to discriminate against women by making it difficult for them to divorce. Divorced women are unable to act as their children's guardian.

This is in Qatar in 2022. The Human Dignity Trust provides information on the human rights abuses of LGBTI people in Qatar. It states, and again I quote from their website:

Qatar criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences can involve a possible maximum penalty of death by stoning.

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 2004, which criminalises acts of 'sodomy' and 'sexual intercourse' between people of the same sex…Both men and women are criminalised under this law.

The Human Dignity Trust goes on to note:

The Constitution of Qatar designates Islam as the state religion, and Islamic law as the main source of legislation. As such, in addition to the Penal Code, Qatar operates an interpretation of Sharia law which criminalises sexual activity between men, under which it is possible that the death penalty can be imposed.

I know that the government of Qatar has argued that these things are not used in practice. Well, we know that is not the case because Human Rights Watch has reported on what has been occurring in Qatar as recently as October. Indeed, Human Rights Watch has revealed that the government of Qatar even goes as far as to monitor people's social media, their online activity, their behaviour on dating apps. They use this as a way to track and monitor LGBTI people, in particular gay men. It is reprehensible.

On 25 October, Reuters reported Human Rights Watch's concerns for the welfare of LGBTI Qataris in the lead-up to the World Cup. I quote from their article:

The organisation—

that is, Human Rights Watch—

said it had interviewed six LGBT Qataris, including four transgender women, one bisexual woman and one gay man, who reported being detained between 2019 and 2022 and subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including kicking and punching.

They were detained without charge in an underground prison in Doha, and one individual was held for two months in solitary confinement—two months. 'All six said that police had forced them to sign pledges indicating that they would cease immoral activity,' the article said, adding that transgender women detainees were mandated to attend conversion therapy sessions at government-sponsored clinics.

One of the transgender Qatari women interviewed by Human Rights Watch told Reuters on condition of anonymity that she was arrested several times, most recently this summer when she was held for weeks on end. Authorities stopped her due to her appearance or for possessing make-up, the woman said, adding that she had been beaten to the point of bleeding and was forced to have her head shaved—this shameful human rights abuse happening in Qatar in 2022.

Recently, Qatar's World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman referred to homosexuality as 'damage to the mind'. This is the view of Qatar's World Cup ambassador. It is hardly surprising, then, that LGBTI sportspeople around the world have spoken out against Qatar holding this event. SA's own out soccer player, Joshua Cavallo, whom the Hon. Ian Hunter and I have had the opportunity to meet with, has been outspoken in his critique. I certainly, like the Hon. Mr Hunter, support his comments.

As one of two out and proud gay men in this place, I want to add my voice to those opposing Qatar hosting the World Cup. I am appalled that LGBTI soccer players and fans are being put in this situation where their human rights are potentially at risk. I am appalled that a country with such an appalling, despicable human rights record is being given the honour of hosting this event and being given the opportunity for a social licence that comes with hosting an event of this nature.

I am appalled that so many workers have died, had their very basic human rights trampled, in an effort to host this event and to make money. Money has literally been made off the backs of some of the world's most desperate and vulnerable people. Surely, we have reached a point where the international community and international organisations like FIFA have to show some moral leadership.

We cannot simply turn our backs on these people. We cannot continue to condone what is despicable human rights abuse. I really do hope that FIFA reflect on their appalling lack of leadership. I hope that they reflect on what has been a despicable moral failure on their part and that they change their policies and processes to ensure that this kind of sportswashing is never allowed to happen again because it is truly despicable.