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LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia

LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal
Lashings, fines, floggings, prison time up to life, torture, chemical castrations,[1] whipping torture, and/or Death penalty on first offense. If convicted twice, you will be executed. Vigilante executions are very common as well,[2] especially by families who want to "save face". The police participate in executions/torture or turn a blind eye to it.[3] Islamic Sharia law is strictly and emphatically applied
(see below)
Gender identity/expression –none
Military service –no
Discrimination protections No protection, discrimination is encouraged, enforced and heavily applied to the LGBT community
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption –no
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Saudi Arabia
Basic Law
Foreign relations

LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia are unrecognized. Homosexuality is frequently a taboo subject in Saudi Arabian society and is punished with imprisonment, fines, corporal punishment, capital punishment, whipping/flogging, and chemical castrations. Transgenderism is generally associated with homosexuality.


  • Laws 1
    • Criminal laws 1.1
      • Cases 1.1.1
    • Right to privacy 1.2
    • Discrimination and civil rights 1.3
    • Censorship 1.4
    • Political activity 1.5
  • Living conditions 2
  • Gender identity 3
  • HIV/AIDS 4
    • 1990s 4.1
    • 2003 4.2
    • 2006 4.3
    • 2007 4.4
    • Foreigners and HIV/AIDS 4.5
  • Summary of rights 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


Criminal laws

Saudi Arabia has no criminal code as traditionally the legal system of Saudi Arabia has consisted of royal decrees and the legal opinions of Muslim judges and clerics, and not legal codes/written law. Much of the subsequent written law has focused on the areas of economics and foreign relations. Reformists have often called for codified laws, and there does appear to be a trend within the country to codify, publish, and even translate some Saudi criminal and civil laws.[4]

In 1928, the Saudi judicial board advised Muslim judges to look for guidance in two books by the Hanbalite jurist Marʿī ibn Yūsuf al-Karmī al-Maqdisī (d.1033/1624). Liwat (sodomy) is to be

"treated like fornication, and must be punished in the same way. If muḥṣan [commonly translated as "adulterer" but technically meaning someone who has had legal intercourse, but who may or may not currently be married] and free [not a slave], one must be stoned to death, while a free bachelor must be whipped 100 lashes and banished for a year."

Sodomy is proven either by the perpetrator confessing four times or by the testimony of four trustworthy Muslim men, who have been eyewitnesses to the act. If there are fewer than four witnesses, or if one of them is not upstanding, they are all to be chastised with 80 lashes for slander.[5]

It is unclear how many people have been executed for sodomy. Some of the official news reports on persons convicted of sodomy seem to provide conflicting opinions.

Laws are enforced by the police and the "religious police" known as the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which views combating homosexuality as one of the behaviors it concentrates on along with heterosexual "immorality", consumption of alcohol and magic.[6]


In 2000 the Saudi government reported that it had sentenced nine Saudi men to extensive prison terms with lashing for engaging in cross-dressing and homosexual relations.[7] That same year the government executed three Yemeni male workers for homosexuality and child molestation.[8]

In May 2005, the government arrested 92 men for homosexuality, who were given sentences ranging from fines to prison sentences of several months and lashings. Likewise, on 7 November 2005

  1. ^ Saudi scholar says sex abusers should undergo chemical castration to avoid rapes| 03/26/2014| Asian News International
  2. ^ 2005: A gay couple in Saudi Arabia| |March 13th, 2011
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Saudi Laws Encyclopedia". Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  5. ^ "Keyan Keihani, A Brief History of Male Homosexuality in the Qur'an, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Arab-Islamic Culture". Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  6. ^ "Segregation of sexes: Hai’a chief stands by his comment". Saudi Gazette. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  7. ^ "Sodomylaws.Org". Sodomylaws.Org. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Sodomylaws.Org". Sodomylaws.Org. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  9. ^ Brian Whitaker (9 April 2005). "Saudis' tough line on gays | World news". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  10. ^ "Busloads of Illegals Rounded Up in Riyadh Crime Swoop". 9 April 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  11. ^ a b "15 held on bootlegging, gay prostitution charges". 11 August 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  12. ^ "Sodomylaws.Org". Sodomylaws.Org. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  13. ^ "Saudi prince found guilty of murdering servant in hotel". BBC. 19 October 2010. 
  14. ^ Zavis, Alexandra (15 September 2010). "'"Gay Saudi diplomat seeking asylum says 'they will kill me openly. Los Angeles Times. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ SIMPSON, JACK (25 July 2014). "Gay Saudi Arabian man sentenced to three years and 450 lashes for meeting men via Twitter". The Independent. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  17. ^ Littauer, Dan (27 May 2011). "Shake hands, kiss and makeup? Not in Saudi Arabian football!". 
  18. ^ "Human Rights Watch World Report 2001: Saudi Arabia: Human Rights Developments". 11 October 1999. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  19. ^ "CREDO Action". Archived from the original on 14 March 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  20. ^ "Portsmouth Herald Accent: Saudi movie buffs frustrated by absence of theaters". 30 April 2006. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ "While 93.9 per cent of Saudi Arabia's households have Satellite TV, some 48.4 per cent of households still tune into terrestrial TV | Research and Studies". Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  23. ^ New Page 1
  24. ^ "Justice Served in Al-Suhaimi Case". 4 January 2006. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  25. ^ "Saudi Arabia: 1,000 lashes for YouTube video". GlobalVoices. 17 March 2010. Retrieved 22 Sep 2014. 
  26. ^ "GenderNews Posting of Sept 28". Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  27. ^ Sebastian Usher (17 June 2004). "Middle East | Gender correction for Saudi girls". BBC News. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  28. ^ "Life | Cross-dressing in Saudi Arabia?". 14 May 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  29. ^ a b "AIDS Patients to Receive Free Treatment in Govt Hospitals". 3 December 2006. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  30. ^ "POZ – POZ Magazine – – Newsfeed : Reporting HIV-Related Discrimination in Saudi Arabia". 2 January 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  31. ^ "‘Aids, What Aids?’". 7 August 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  32. ^ "AEGiS-AP: AIDS Cases In Saudi Arabia Increases To 7,808 From 6,787". 24 November 2004. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  33. ^ a b Fattah, Hassan M. (8 August 2006). "Saudi Arabia Begins to Face Hidden AIDS Problem – New York Times". Saudi Arabia: Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  34. ^ "Editorial: Battle Against Prejudice". 30 December 2006. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  35. ^ "Survey Provides Insight Into AIDS Awareness Among Youth". 6 January 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  36. ^ "Search – Global Edition – The New York Times". International Herald Tribune. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  37. ^ "2008 Human Rights Report: Saudi Arabia".  
  38. ^ "News | Human Rights Watch". Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  39. ^ [3]


See also

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: Prison sentences of several months to life, fines and/or whipping/flogging, castration, torture, vigilante execution, or death can be sentenced on first conviction. A second conviction merits execution.)
Equal age of consent No N/A since it is illegal there isn't an age of consent
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No Discrimination is encouraged, enforced and heavily applied to the LGBT community.
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No Discrimination is encouraged, enforced and heavily applied to the LGBT community.
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No Discrimination is encouraged, enforced and heavily applied to the LGBT community.
Same-sex marriage No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No

Summary of rights

Foreigners are required to demonstrate that they are not infected with the virus before they can enter the country, and are required to get a test to renew the residency permit. Any foreigner that is discovered to be infected will be deported to the country of origin as soon as they are deemed fit to travel. Foreigners are not given access to any AIDS medications and while awaiting deportation may be segregated (imprisoned) from the rest of society.[39]

Foreigners and HIV/AIDS

In 2007, a government-funded[37] organization, the National Society for Human Rights, published a document suggesting ways to improve the treatment of people living with the disease. The proposed "Bill of Rights" document was criticized by Human Rights Watch for allegedly undermining human rights and global efforts to fight the pandemic.[38]

While much of the work on AIDS-HIV education has been supported by members of the Saudi royal family or medical doctors, there is an attempt to gain permission to create some independent AIDS societies, one of which is called Al-Husna Society, that would work on helping people infected with the disease find employment, education families and work to fight the prejudice that faces people infected.[36]

In January 2007 a Saudi economics professor at King Abdul Aziz University was permitted to conduct of survey of a handful of Saudi University students on their level of education about the pandemic.[35]


Saudi Princess Alia bint Abdullah has been involved in the Saudi AIDS Society, which was permitted in December 2006 to hold a public charity art auction followed by a discussion on how the disease was impacting the kingdom that included two Saudis living with HIV. The event was organized with the help of the Saudi National Program for Combating AIDS which is chaired by Dr. Sana Filimban.

It was this same year that a Saudi citizen named Rami al-Harithi revealed that he had become infected with HIV while having surgery and has become an official proponent of education and showing compassion to those people infected.[33]

In December 2006 the Arab News ran an editorial that called for greater public awareness of how the virus is spread and more compassion for those people infected.[34]

In June 2006, the Ministry of Health publicly admitted that more than 10,000 Saudi citizens were either infected with HIV or had AIDS.[33]


In 2003 the government announced that it knew of 6,787 cases, and in 2004 the official number rose to 7,808. The government statistics claim that most of the registered cases are foreign males who contracted the disease through "forbidden" sexual relations.[32]


In the late 1990s the Saudi government began to slowly step up a public education campaign about AIDS-HIV. It started to recognize World AIDS Day, and the Arabic and English daily newspapers were permitted to run articles and opinions that expressed the need for more education about the disease and more compassion for those people infected. The number of people living in the kingdom who were infected was a closely guarded secret, as the official policy was often that the disease was not a serious problem in a kingdom because Saudis followed the principles of traditional Islamic morality.


While Health Ministers and religious leaders express the need to treat people living with the virus decently, they also note, "When Islam forbids adultery and homosexuality, it does so for the benefit of the human spirit and a person’s welfare and protection”.[29]

Yet, ignorance, fear and prejudice are often directed at people living with the disease. While the government has designated several hospitals to treat those people infected with AIDS or HIV, other hospitals often refuse to care for such people or fail to treat them in a compassionate and humane manner.[30] Hospitals and schools are often reluctant to distribute government information about the disease because of strong taboos and the stigma attached to how the virus can be spread.[31] For example, condoms are legal, but until recently, they were rarely available anywhere other than certain hospitals or medical supply stores.

By law, every Saudi citizen who is infected with HIV or has AIDS is entitled to free medical care, protection of their privacy as to how they got infected and employment opportunities. The government has produced educational material on how the disease is spread and since the 1980s Abdullah al-Hokail, a Saudi doctor who specializes in the pandemic, has been allowed to air public service announcements on television about the disease and how it is spread.[29]


Cross-dressing is prohibited under Islamic jurisprudence, and is therefore illegal.[26] It is often associated with homosexuality and can be as punishable. News reports tell that the punishment involves vigilante executions, torture, whippings, chemical castrations, fines, imprisonment, capital punishment, and/or deportation. Transsexuals cannot have a sex change operation in the kingdom and are not allowed to change the sex on their legal documents. The only narrow exception to this rule are people who are intersex,[27] but even for them, sex change for intersex people are rarely allowed, they could technically be charged with a death sentence for homosexuality and vigilante execution often will become their ultimate fate for them and other LGBT whose family want to "save face". Some Saudi women will dress up as men, in order to circumvent the restrictions that women face, e.g., the ban on driving or the sex-segregated public establishments.,[28] but they are caught and given the same strict punishments.

Gender identity

While mixing of the sexes is forbidden in Saudi, the holding of hands and even exchange of light kisses among men is a sign of friendship and should not be attempted by foreigners.

Living conditions

Political organizations are not allowed in the kingdom, and no public organization, club or society would be allowed to endorse LGBT human rights or even act as a social network for LGBT people in the kingdom. The underground Green Party of Saudi Arabia is the only party that has endorsed the LGBT human rights movement and called for greater public openness about sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Political activity

In 2010, a twenty-seven-year-old Saudi man was charged with homosexuality and impersonating a police officer when he posted a comical video of himself online, where he discusses popular culture, shows off his chest hair and flirts with the camera man. He was sentenced to a year in prison, with 1,000 lashes, and ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 rials (US $1,333).[25]

In 2001, Saudi teacher and playwright Muhammad Al-Suhaimi was charged with promoting homosexuality and after a trial was sentenced to prison. In 2006, he was given a pardon and allowed to resume teaching.[24]

The Saudi government has frequently blocked Internet users in the kingdom from accessing web pages that deal with LGBT political or social issues, even if they are not pornographic. These blocks are sometimes temporarily removed due to international criticism.[23]

Satellite television exists in a legal gray area. It used to be illegal, although the ban was often ignored and recent polling data suggests that over ninety percent of Saudi households have satellite television.[22] While it is still technically illegal, the government has started up its own satellite stations, and has been in the works to develop a pan-Arab censorship policy to crack down on live talk shows and other programming that features controversial political discussions and debates.

Public movie theaters have been unofficially banned since the early 1980s, although there is some public discussion about lifting this ban,[20] with a four-day film festival being allowed to exist.[21] Home movies, including VHS and DVDs, are allowed, if they have been censored, and sold in many stores. However, Saudi Customs agents do keep a list of films that are not permitted to enter the kingdom, and will be confiscated.

Royal decrees, i.e. Royal Decree for Printed Material and Publications of 1982, regulate and censor journalists, media content and media distribution within the kingdom,[18] with fines and imprisonment for violators. Since the 1990s, Saudi newspapers and other publications have been permitted to make occasional reference to LGBT themes, often in terms of criminal law or the number of people infected with AIDS-HIV in the kingdom. However, sodomy, homosexuality and cross-dressing are only spoken of as sign of immorality, criminality, disease, defect or Western decadence.[19] No endorsement of gay rights is permitted.

The Saudi government censors all forms of communications for themes deemed to be offensive to the royal family or Islam. This includes all newspapers, magazines, comic books, advertisements, film, television broadcasts, Internet webpages, CDs, VHSs, DVDs, cassette tapes, and all video or computer software that is sold in the kingdom. This includes people bringing such material into the kingdom, even if it is for personal use.


In 2013, the Gulf Cooperative Countries, which Saudi Arabia is a member, announced plans to ban LGBT foreigners from entering Gulf countries. The ban would reportedly be enforced through some type of test [1].

In 2011, Mirel Radoi, a Romanian football player who plays for the Saudi Alhilal Club, was fined 20,000 Saudi Riyals and suspended for two matches after calling a Saudi Arabian football player, Hussein Abdul Ghani, who plays for Nasr Club, gay. The public comment, intended as an insult, was highly controversial and generated quite a bit of coverage in the Saudi press, including the refusal of Hussein Abdul Ghani to shake hands with Mirel Radoi after a later game.[17]

The required exit and entry visa paperwork does not ask people about their sexual orientation, as it does their nationality, sex, religion and marital status. No same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union has any legal standing in the nation and may be used as evidence to initiate criminal proceedings.

Saudi Arabia has no laws against discrimination or hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Advocacy for LGBT rights is illegal within the kingdom.

Discrimination and civil rights

The Saudi Constitution does not provide for a right to privacy. The government can, with a court order, search homes, vehicles, places of business and intercept private communications. People living in the kingdom should assume that communications can be seized by the government for evidence in a criminal trial.

Right to privacy

In 2014, a 24-year-old Saudi Arabian man was sentenced to three years detention and 450 lashes after a Medina court found him guilty of “promoting the vice and practice of homosexuality,” after he was caught using Twitter to arrange dates with other men.[16]

Recent reports of people being executed for homosexuality often add other charges to the offense, typically theft, rape or murder. For example, a gay Yemeni was executed for homosexuality and murder in 2013.[15]

Even government officials are not immune from criminal sanctions. A gay Saudi diplomat named Ali Ahmad Asseri applied for asylum in the United States after the Saudi government discovered his sexuality.[14]

Criminal charges are often brought by the government sanctioned Committee for Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. For example. In 2010, a 27-year-old Saudi man was sentenced to five years in prison, 500 lashes of the whip, and a SR50,000 fine after appearing in an amateur gay video online allegedly taken inside a Jeddah prison. According to an unnamed government source, “The District Court sentenced the accused in a homosexuality case that was referred to it by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a) in Jeddah before he was tried for impersonating a security man and behaving shamefully and with conduct violating the Islamic teachings.” The case started when the Hai’a’s staff arrested the man under charges of practicing homosexuality. He was referred to the Bureau for Investigation and Prosecution, which referred him to the District Court.

In 2010, Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud was charged with the murder of his male companion while on holiday in London. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to a long prison term. According to the prosecutor, the Prince sexually and physically abused his servant as well as paid other men for sexual services.[13]

International protests from human rights organizations prompted some Saudi officials within the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington D.C. to unofficially and incorrectly imply that their kingdom will only use the death penalty when someone has been convicted of child molestation, rape, sexual assault, murder or engaging in anything deemed to be a form of political advocacy.[12]

Persons caught living in the kingdom illegally are often accused of other crimes, involving illegal drugs, pornography, prostitution and homosexuality. Several such police crackdowns were reported in 2004–2005.[10] A similar raid in 2008 netted Filipino workers arrested on charges of alcohol and gay prostitution.[11] The Arab News article on the arrests stated, "Gay rights are not recognized in the Middle East countries and the publication of any material promoting them is banned".[11]

In October 2007, British human rights activists protested recent reports that the Saudi government was sending British mosques material urging the killing of gays and subjugation of women.


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