The host nation of the 2022 men’s World Cup, Qatar, is known for its human rights abuses related to women, migrant workers and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Same-sex relationships in Qatar are illegal and punishable by up to seven years in prison. With Qatar hosting one of the world’s most popular sporting events, these human rights abuses are now under scrutiny on the world stage.
The latest issue arose when the England and Wales captains set out to defy FIFA by wearing “OneLove” armbands during the tournament. The rainbow bracelets 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 that “we have clear regulations on armbands.”
It was said that players wearing the rainbow armbands could face on-pitch penalties, including yellow cards. That threat appeared to have worked, as the teams subsequently decided not to wear the armband, explaining in a joint statement from various football associations:
We were prepared to pay the fines that would normally apply to infractions of the kit rules and we had a firm commitment to wear the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they can be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.
There has been a passive acceptance of discrimination by many, including FIFA and the UK government. This is reflected in comments made by UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverley, who stated that LGBTQ+ fans attending the World Cup in Qatar need to show “a bit of flexibility and compromise”. He 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 response that all fans, including those from the LGBTQ+ communities, will be welcome at Qatar 2022, and that the safety of all fans It’s the most important thing in Qatar.” priority.”
However, just two weeks before the start of the World Cup, a Qatari official told German media that homosexuality is “mental damage” and said that homosexuals “have to accept our rules here.”
These comments seem wrong on the surface, but they hide a much bigger problem. There should be no “flex and compromise” around human rights. Criminalizing LGBTQ+ people is not a cultural choice but an attack on human rights and is an issue of universal importance. However, the lines seem blurred to many in the case of the World Cup.
Suggested reading: ‘One Love’ LGBTQ rights bracelet controversy at World Cup, 7 things to know
Contradictory position of FIFA
Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ human rights is apparently in conflict with FIFA’s values and raises serious questions about the governing body’s position in relation to this. FIFA states that it is “committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and will endeavor to promote the protection of these rights.” This policy states that discrimination of any kind, including against sexual orientation, is “strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
FIFA adopted the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2016. The UN has repeatedly confirmed that discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics is contrary to international law. from the human rights.
FIFA also created a human rights and anti-discrimination department in 2020. This is based on the requirement that the body take measures to mitigate and prevent human rights violations.
The treatment of people from the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar appears to be in direct conflict with the alleged values of FIFA. Rather than condemn Qatar’s human rights abuses, FIFA has called on competing nations to “focus on football” and stop “giving moral lessons”.
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently declared that giving Qatar the World Cup was a mistake and was the result of political pressure. Qatar is said to invest billions in world football, highlighting the stark reality that human rights apparently come at a price.
The long-term impact of the World Cup in Qatar on LGBTQ+ issues in football, despite verbal condemnation of discrimination by some, may be felt for many years.
Historically, soccer in the UK has been notoriously discriminatory against the LGBTQ+ community. However, this seems to be improving. Blackpool player Jake Daniel is the first and only UK active male professional footballer to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990. This is a huge step forward for LGBTQ+ people in sport.
However, there is still a stigma around LGBTQ+ people in football. Harsh rhetoric and inaction from various governing bodies and government around the World Cup may exacerbate football’s homophobia and prevent more footballers from coming out. It could also influence the career choices of budding players or those who want to work in the sector.
LGBTQ+ fans are already boycotting the World Cup, saying they feel left out of the game.
Being LGBTQ+ is not a lifestyle choice or value that people can or should compromise or “flex”. And not being discriminated against for reasons of sexuality is a fundamental human right. It could be said that those who participate in this World Cup are complicit in such discrimination.
Sophie King-Hill, Senior Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Center for Health Services Management, first published the paper on The conversation.