With the World Cup just weeks away, Luke Pollard has raised the issue of LGBTQ+ persecution in Qatar with the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
This year’s tournament has been marred with controversy since it was announced that it would take place in the Gulf state, where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTQ+ people are routinely subjected to discrimination and harassment.
In an oral question to the FCDO on 8 November, Pollard – Plymouth’s first openly gay MP and the current Shadow Armed Forces Minister – highlighted that “it is not safe for someone like me to watch the World Cup in Qatar.”
“Because of the human rights abuses of migrant workers and Qatar’s LGBT population, I personally don’t think Qatar should ever have been awarded a major sporting competition,” he told the House of Commons.
“So will the Minister back the home nation’s captains in wearing a rainbow armband when they play at the World Cup and can he apologise for the Foreign Secretary’s remarks that LGBT fans should somehow show compromise, because it is never acceptable for a government minister to force LGBT people back into the closet.”
As a gay @England fan it is not safe for someone like me to watch their team at the World Cup in Qatar.
— Luke Pollard MP (@LukePollard) November 8, 2022
David Rutley, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Americas and Caribbean, said the FCDO will be prioritising “the safety of all British nationals who will be travelling to the World Cup.”
He continued: “LGBT+ rights is an issue that the UK prioritises internationally and we continue to engage with the Qatar authorities on this issue.
“Many sportsmen and women use their platform to do important work across a range of issues – that’s their personal choice.
“The UK government stands by our values and our teams stand by our values of our home nations.”
@gaytimes @lukepollardmp raises the issue of LGBTQ+ persecution in Qatar from parliament #qatar2022 #worldcup #worldcup2022 #lgbtqrights #ukpolitics ♬ original sound – GAY TIMES
Despite his assurances that the government prioritises LGBTQ+ rights abroad, Rutley failed to acknowledge the comments made by James Cleverly which Pollard sought an apology for.
The Foreign Secretary recently told LGBTQ+ fans travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to be “respectful of the host nation” in order to stay safe there.
“They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football, and I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup,” he told LBC.
'Please do be respectful of the host nation.'
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told LBC this morning that with a bit of 'compromise' from football fans, the World Cup in Qatar can be a 'safe and exciting event'.@NickFerrariLBC | @JamesCleverly pic.twitter.com/8q4XDHfL6H
— LBC (@LBC) October 26, 2022
Pollard’s question comes not long after the Human Rights Watch reported cases of LGBTQ+ people being detained and subjected to “ill-treatment in detention” in the country as recently as last month.
There were at least six cases of “severe and repeated beatings” reported, as well as five incidences of “sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.”
This is despite the Football Association assuring fans that they will not face arrest for kissing or holding hands in public at the World Cup in November.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place from 20 November – 18 December this year.