Arab League challenged on Institutional Homophobia

A gay world leader called out the Arab League for laws banning homosexuality

By Alex Bollinger · Thursday, February 28, 2019
Xavier Bettel

The gay prime minister of Luxembourg called out leaders of several countries that ban homosexuality at the world’s first Arab League-European Union summit.

Earlier this week at a conference room in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel denounced anti-LGBTQ laws and violence.

According to a member of Bettel’s cabinet who was present at the meeting, he “said that he was gay and that the fact that he is married to a man could get him the death penalty in a number of countries represented at the table.”

Related: Egypt’s gay community goes deeper underground, fearing crackdown

Der Spiegel‘s Stefan Leifert said that Bettel’s speech elicited “icy silence” from some people who were present and “silent joy” from others.

In three countries that were present – Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen – gay people can be sentenced to death.

While Egypt, where the conference was held, does not formally ban homosexuality, LGBTQ people have been arrested under indecency laws.

Human Rights Watch has said that Egypt’s president supports “persecution of gays and trans people as a political strategy.”

EU leaders said that the summit was a success and the summit’s declaration mentions support for “all aspects of internal human rights law.” The Arab League leaders, though, insisted that a reference to freedom of expression be dropped from the declaration.

The declaration does not mention LGBTQ issues at all.

Bettel is the first modern world leader married to someone of the same sex and the first gay prime minister in the world to win a second term.

He married his husband Gauthier Destenay in 2015, after marriage equality was recognized in Luxembourg.

Here we have a European Prime Minister who is bold enough to challenge the Arab Nations on their status quo re the matter of decriminalising LGBTQ activities amongst their people.

Interestingly – presumably in the interests of maintaining that situation – the communique emerging from this meeting of  the world’s first Arab League-European Union summit made no mention of Xavier Bettel’s speech! However, the fact that the speech was able to be made says something about the difference between the European and the Arab sensibilities on this common human rights issue.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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