A Saudi Arabian gay man has reportedly been sentenced to 450 lashes and three years in jail after religious police used social media to entrap him, and sadly this isn’t the first case of its kind.
The ploy was hatched by Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) who had been alerted to tweets the unnamed 24-year-old man from Medina had sent to other gay Twitter users. Al-Whatan reports that the CPVPV arranged for an undercover investigator to meet with the man by agreeing to a date with him on Twitter. When they met, the unnamed man was arrested and his phone confiscated and searched. Reports say that on that phone investigators found several “indecent” and “homosexual” images, but precisely what that means has not been clarified.
The CPVPV then turned the man over to the city’s Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution, with the authorities reportedly seeking the death penalty. After pleading guilty the man now faces three years in prison and 450 lashes spread over 15 separate flogging sessions. This may allow the man to survive, but what condition he will be in after the fact remains to be seen.
LGBTQ Nation quotes the chairperson of the United Arab Emirates LGBT group as saying:
“It is infuriating and disheartening when a country that was elected not too long ago to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), arrogantly and nonchalantly violates its core principles and harms its own citizens. Not only is the fundamental human right for privacy… breached but the entrapment and sentence also breaches several human rights charters. If the man survives this ordeal he will find himself an outcast and will be in danger for life after he completes this harsh sentence.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only case of its kind. Saudi Arabia has a history of entrapping LGBT people and then pursuing punitive charges against them, including arresting men and trans women who have simply sought health advice, as well as other people who may not have been LGBT at all but fell prey to the country’s zealous religious police regardless.
Saudi Arabia makes same-sex sexual conduct a crime and those convicted may face lengthy prison sentences, beatings, lashing or even the death penalty. In addition, they may be subject to vigilante groups who, if the authorities aren’t willing to kill, will carry out the murderous task instead. The law offers absolutely no protections for gay or trans people in any sector, and has been interpreted as positively encouraging such discrimination under religious edicts that make informing on so-called sinners a virtue. In addition, the law in almost every case does not recognize gender affirmation or gender change and actively criminalizes what it dubs “cross-dressing.”
These laws are compounded by the fact that there is technically no right to privacy under Saudi law, meaning the government or officials so empowered can at any time and without a court order search the homes, businesses or personal effects of any person.
Even after all this, the unidentified 24-year-old’s situation still may get worse. Saudi Arabia currently has a serious prison-overcrowding problem, with claims backed up by video footage that prisoners are being forced to sleep toe-to-toe in hallways in some of the country’s prisons. Squalid conditions and overall poor treatment are also often mentioned.
Saudi Arabia’s officials are apparently trying to combat this issue by creating so-called community service programs rather than relying on lengthy jail terms. Saudi Arabia’s main problem, however, seems to be its morality policing that, empowered by its ability to search anyone at will, can usually find an infraction if it searches long and hard enough.
Similar concerns have been thrown at other nations in the region, and also recently countries like Russia, but Saudi Arabia in particular seems to have developed a flare for entrapping victims — something that is doubly injurious for the LGBT community who might have otherwise found refuge online when the reality of life in Saudi Arabia gets to be too much.
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