The heat is building as the launch of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar edges closer.
With just a few days to go before the November 20 kick-off, the spotlight is shining brighter than ever on Qatar’s human rights record.
And while protests, arguments, and ultimatums have been made against the Middle Eastern’s country’s stance on issues including LGBTQI rights, not to mention the treatment of migrant workers, there is growing concern that bluster and rhetoric will have little effect on creating real change.
While the England players’ stance on wearing ‘One-Love’ armbands is admirable, and the recently released Australian men’s national team human rights video impressive, there has been no talk of boycotts or country’s “putting their money where their mouths are”.
Drew Dalton is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Programme Leader in MSc Inequality and Society at the University of Sunderland. He is also Founder and Chair of ReportOUT, a global human rights charity for sexual and gender minorities.
He said: “The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar was always controversial in terms of worker and LGBTQI rights, especially considering the growing fan base of LGBTQI football fans who are entering a country whereby same sex (sexual) relations are illegal.
“However, this has presented the Qatari Government with a quandary – to what extent do they have to discuss this topic in a country which remains silent on this taboo and hidden topic? What we have seen from the West, has been a lot of sabre-rattling from governments about the need to protect LGBTQI rights in Qatar, yet little action from those same governments on the ground.
“Whilst I don’t think boycotts are particularly effective, this emerging conversation has meant that the Qatari government are faced with the reality of having to raise this topic for public discussion. This may seem minor but bringing to light topics such as LGBTQI rights is significant, coupled with the first ever public LGBTQI protest led by Peter Tatchell in Qatar, may be the beginnings of the change which is needed.”
With an estimated audience of 5 billion people around the world expected to watch the tournament, this is seen as a unique chance to prompt debate over controversial laws in Qatar where male homosexuality is illegal and result in up to three years in prison.
Drew Dalton added: “If LGBTQI rights in the MENA region are to be tackled successfully, governments must put their money where their mouth is, and fund the under resourced global LGBTQI human rights arena, to work with Qatari activists, to facilitate this change.
“Less empty words, and more action is needed”