Social Media in Saudi Arabia Is Turning People Gay

04.03.16
Photo illustration by John Lyman
World News /03 Apr 2016
04.03.16

Social Media in Saudi Arabia Is Turning People Gay

Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in the conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is punishable by death. The word homosexuality in Arabic means Shuthuth, which is in itself a pejoratively insulting word meaning anomaly or abnormality.

In an attempt to decrease homosexuality, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is advocating for executing gays. Pink News reported that the Saudis suspect that social media is “making too many homosexuals.”

Saudi newspapers report that prosecutors in Saudi Arabia are pushing to enforce the death penalty for homosexuality because social media is turning people gay.

Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia is not only illegal, but is also often compared to rape or pedophilia. Saudi Arabia is one of a list of 75 countries with criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people (LGBTIs), according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

In the past six months prosecutors in Saudi Arabia have looked into 35 cases brought against gay people for “obscene behavior, ‘sexual assault’ and sodomy,” while another 50 cases concerning cross-dressers were instigated in the past three months, according to Okaz, a Saudi newspaper.

It is difficult to estimate the number of gay people in the Kingdom, and it is more difficult to confirm how many people were charged under the kingdom’s judicial system.

The new restrictions follow the Saudi authorities’ observation that an increasing number of people are becoming bolder when expressing their “abnormality” [lit. shuthuth], the Arabic word used for gays, by displaying pictures of themselves on social media sites.

Several Saudi newspapers have reported that prosecutors are pushing for harsher penalties for “strange anomalies” available on social media, as evidence of the spread of vice and immorality in Saudi society. In an ironic turn of events, a Saudi medical doctor has been arrested for flying the rainbow pride flag above his home in Jeddah, according to Okaz Newspaper.

The doctor claimed that he had no idea the flag represented LGBT. He insisted that he had bought the flag from an online retailer because his children found the colors pretty.

The Saudi religious police, known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, arrested the man for mounting the flag on a three-meter pole above his home, which is, according to the religious police, impermissible and punishable by Sharia.

The man reportedly received bail after an investigation and the flag was removed.

According to the 2015 ILGA homophobia report, Saudi Arabia is one of the very few countries in the world to impose the death penalty for homosexuality. Apparently, executions, along with imprisonment and lashings are a common punishment for same-sex activities in Saudi Arabia.

“In relation to death penalty, eight States officially legislate for it, but only five (Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) actually implement it,” the ILGA report suggests.

While a hashtag on Twitter demanding the respect of LGBT rights (#سنحترم_حقوق_المثليين) went viral in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region of West Asia, many of the tweets were violent and intolerant. Other tweets about Saudi gays on Twitter such as “The Saudi Gay” (@TheSaudiGay), which demands changing the word “anomaly” [lit. shuthuth] into homosexuality [lit. mithliyyeen], when referring to gays.

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