Saudi Arabia wants to ensure that the United Nations does not include any mention of LGBTQ rights in the organization’s Global Goals initiative.
The United Nations has developed a list of seventeen goals for sustainable development in all countries, for all people. The Global Goals include things like ending poverty and hunger, access to quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, and climate action. The hope is that, from these seventeen goals, the next fifteen years will propel forward the world toward ceasing extreme poverty, ending inequality and injustice, and fixing climate change.
These fairly comprehensive goals, however, are missing all explicit mentions of LGBTQ rights. The Global Goals, which passed in the UN this September, was stripped of all mention of LGBTQ persons, despite the protest of more progressive countries.
Notably, the UN’s Global Goals mention by name almost all other protected classes, stating that it is imperative to ensure that “human rights and freedoms are enjoyed by all, without discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity, color, sex, age, language, religion, culture, migration status, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic situation, birth, disability, or other status.”
Despite the removal of all LGBTQ-specific language, there is one clause that Saudia Arabia has found objectionable under the goal for good health and well-being. Included in that section is a goal to, by 2030, “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.” While that may sound innocuous, Saudi Arabia has interpreted the statement as a potential support of LGBTQ rights.
The Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, claiming that rights for LGBTQ people run “counter to Islamic law,” announced to the United Nations General Assembly that “mentioning sex in the text, to us, means exactly male and female. Mentioning family means consisting of a married man and woman.” To the Saudi delegation, any other type of sex or family is unacceptable. When pushed by other countries to embrace rights for LGBTQ individuals, the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations called the idea “unacceptable.”
In Saudi Arabia, punishment for engaging in homosexuality is extremely harsh. Those found to be engaging in same-sex relationships may face execution, chemical castration, or imprisonment.