Saudi Arabia said it objects to the inclusion of LGBTI rights in the United Nations’ (UN) new agenda for global development because it runs “counter to Islamic law.”
The UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Friday, calling for development agreements in fields ranging from healthcare to economic equity.
Some targets, which relate to universal access to reproductive healthcare and protection of LGBTI people, have faced opposition from the Vatican and nations like Saudi Arabia.
The target they object to is: “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told a UN. summit of world leaders that “mentioning sex in the text, to us, means exactly male and female. Mentioning family means consisting of a married man and woman.”
He further stressed the country’s right to exclude such targets that mandate any “deviations” from it, according to the Associated Press.
The UN goals also pledge that “human rights and fundamental freedoms are enjoyed by all, without discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity, colour, sex, age, language, religion, culture, migration status, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic situation, birth, disability or other status.”
It further pledges to “end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere”, failing to mention LGBTI rights.
An ambitious list of 17 goals has been laid out by the UN SDGs that are hoped to be a “launch pad for action by the international community and by national governments to promote shared prosperity and well-being.”
The kingdom has one of the harshest punishments in the world for LGBTI people, including the stoning, beheading, chemical castration, lengthy imprisonment and flogging.
Last week Saudi Arabia’s Ambassodor has been elected as Chair of the Five-Member Consultative Group of the UN Council for Human Rights (UNHCR), despite him stating that LGBTI rights is an insult to his culture and Islam and the country will oppose them.
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, Minister Humza Yousaf, Alyn Smith MEP and Stewart McDonald MP have sharply criticised Saudi Arabia’s stance, saying LGBTI rights are an inseparable part of the universality of human rights.
Abdulla that chairs the main LGBTI rights group in the Gulf, UAE LGBTI Rights, expressed his dismay, telling KaleidoScot: “It comes as no surprise that after chairing an important UNHCR panel on Human Rights, Saudi Arabia wastes no time in stating it has a total disregarded to its universality and wants to ‘pick and chose’ rights and goals.
“This coming from the same country that has a beheading count of 88 just this year, a teen crucifixion planned for sometime this week, and LGBTI people as well as women are oppressed and face severe penalties and discrimination.
“If the United nations does not take a firmer stand on abuses, all of our efforts in the region will have been for nothing.”
Daayiee Abullah, an openly gay imam based in the USA was critical of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the UN’s human rights organisations and goals, stating: “Islamic law to Saudia Arabia means what it’s governing monarchy wants it to mean.
“Though I am sure they would disagree with my opinion, there is nothing in the Quran against LGBTQI people. LGBTI rights are compatible with Quranic ethics rather than being an insult… it is a blessing from Allah.
“Placing Saudi Arabia on the Human Rights Council or their objections to SDGs given any weight is a grievous mistake. The UN should hold to the universal standard for human rights rather than a theocracy that abuses them. Allowing their input is an anathema to improve human conditions globally.
“I think a better route is for Saudi Arabia to withdraw from its position in UNHCR and any discussion on SDGs based upon an incapacity to render an unbiased legal opinion due to inbuilt prejudice, and such views causes havoc upon world citizens they do not govern. Now that’s an Islamic law ruling I can support.”
Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, responded to KaleidoScot: “It is entirely unacceptable that the United Nations has ascribed a key human rights role to Saudi Arabia, despite its appalling record on the treatment of women and minorities. Now, references to LGBT equality have been entirely removed from Saudi Arabia’s Sustainable Development Goals; this is despite the fact that challenging inequality is fundamental to these goals. The international community must make it clear that Saudi Arabia should not be able to have its cake and eat it.”
Fiyaz Mughal OBE, director of Faith Matters, a charity that promotes interfaith understanding of Islam, told KaleidoScot: “The UN Development Goals are about raising the global bar on the human rights and basic access to services that people should receive. To hear that Saudi Arabia objects to the inclusion of LGBTI rights in the UN Sustainable Development Goals is like suggesting that there should be human rights but only for a select group of people.
“Does the Saudi Government truly believe that it does not have gay communities or are the substantial numbers of gay people from Saudi Arabia who live in London, an illusory mirage to them? But then again, we are talking about the nation that has exported it’s hardline literalist view of Islam at the expense of the Islam of rationalism, spirituality, creativity and which preserved human life at its core. The latter is the Islam many here in England follow and so we stand with the fundamental belief that human rights is enshrined for all, rather than the ostrich like view that these Wahhabists take whilst they trample on minority groups in their own country. Shame on the UN for accepting these part-time human rights cowboys.”
A petition in to remove Saudi Arabia from any role in UNHRC has now garnered over 30,000 signatures.