An area where Qatar consistently ranks low on the Social Progress Index is in the areas of personal freedom and choice, and inclusiveness. This should not come as a surprise as homosexuality is illegal in the country and same-sex relationships can be punishable by the death sentence. Article 285 of Qatar’s Penal Code bans same-sex sexual activity for both men and women, with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Similar to the issue of workers’ rights, homosexuality has also been a hot topic discussed by many, and the debate on if LGBTQ+ fans traveling for the World Cup will be safe whilst at the tournament. The Social Progress Index rankings hints that it could be an issue with Qatar underperforming in both personal freedom and choice ad inclusiveness, ranking 44th and 142nd respectively. In spite of the statistic, Qatari officials have claimed that the nation is safe for LGBTQ fans to visit for the World Cup but concerns remain.
In October, Human Rights Watch published research findings that Qatar Preventive Security Department forces, under the Interior Ministry, had arbitrarily arrested six Qatari LGBT people and subjected them to ill-treatment, including severe beatings and sexual harassment, in detention. Since the published report, a Qatari official said the allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false”. The scrutiny continued to escalate as in November, just weeks prior to the beginning of the tournament, a 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup Ambassador described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during a television interview. This treatment and comments made about the LGBT+ community have left many of those within the community concerned. But, the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino has asserted that “everyone is welcome [at the World Cup] regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”. But what will happen after the tournament concludes? We will have to see if the country will double down on its traditions or open doors to more inclusivity.
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It is safe to say that there has never been as much controversy heading into a World Cup like this. Ever since Qatar was selected to host the 2022 World Cup, there has been constant debate over whether it would be a worthy host. When examining the country’s Social Progress Index, it is apparent why. Overall, Qatar ranks 90 out of 169 in the index with a score of 66.47 and has slowly but surely risen in the rankings year on year, showing gradual progress is being made. However, despite the sweeping labor reforms of 2019, in the background, not everything is as it had promised to be.
CEO of Social Progress, Michael Green, said: “Despite modest improvement in the last decade, Qatar continues to be one of the worst performers on the Social Progress Index relative to its wealth.
Since 2011 Qatar has made gains in access to information and communication, advanced education, healthcare and personal safety. Environmental quality has also improved but Qatar is still 167 out of 169 countries on this measure. Qatar has not really moved the needle on water and sanitation or basic education, where it remains weak.
Most strikingly, Qatar’s performance on rights has declined significantly since 2011 and now ranks 154th in the world on personal rights. Beyond the air-conditioned stadiums of the World Cup, Qatar faces significant social progress challenges for which lack of resources should be no excuse.”
Therefore, there are still several questions that need answering, and with the World Cup now underway and fans beginning to flock in their thousands, it will be interesting to see how Qatar will be perceived after the World Cup comes to an end.