(CNN Spanish) — The election of Qatar in 2010 as the venue for the World Cup unleashed a wave of debates and controversies over the situation of minority rights that continue to this day, days away from its start.
And it is that not only is it an atypical location —due to the extreme heat, which led to the delay of the start until November— for the competition, but also the country, an Islamic monarchy located in the Persian Gulf, has been criticized for human rights organizations for their treatment of the LGBTQ community, women, and migrants.
In Qatar, Islam is the official religion, and Wahhabi Sunnism the most representative faction. Its current king is Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is seen as a modernizer within a very conservative country.
These are some of the main human rights violations in Qatar.
The situation of the LGBTQ community
Qatar is one of the 70 countries in the world where sexual relations between people of the same gender are criminalized, according to Amnesty International.
In the country, penalties of up to seven years in prison are applied for violation of articles 285 and 296 of the penal code, referring to these relationships.
According to Human Rights Watch, there are reports of members of the LGBTQ community being arrested for their online activity, and the government regularly censors content related to gender identity and sexual orientation.
In preparation for the World Cup, the Qatari government has said it will “tolerantly” accept tourists from the LGBTQ community and will not restrict their expression. But there are questions about how Qatari citizens will be treated at the same time.
In October, Qatar praised Australia’s men’s team for its efforts to raise awareness of “important issues” and said “no country is perfect,” a spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Committee on Delivery and Legacy said.
In a video message produced by Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), 16 players called on Qatar to recognize same-sex relationships and improve the rights of migrant workers. The PFA also published an open letter to Qatar expressing the need for reform.
“We congratulate the footballers who use their platforms to raise awareness on important issues,” said the spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Committee, responding to the footballers’ call for reforms in the country ahead of the upcoming World Cup in Doha.
“No country is perfect, and all countries, whether they host major events or not, have their challenges,” the spokesperson said.
“New laws and reforms often take time to set in, and robust implementation of employment laws is a global challenge, including in Australia.”
Women in Qatar, as in other Gulf countries where Islam is the official religion, face extensive discrimination based both in law and in practice, according to Amnesty International.
Under the male guardianship system, women remain subservient to their guardians (father, husband, brother, etc.) and must ask their permission for important decisions such as getting married, studying or working.
Also, to access reproductive health treatments and basic gynecological controls such as Papanicolaou tests.
In addition, it is difficult for women to get divorced, and even more difficult to obtain guardianship over children after a divorce.
The male guardianship system even conflicts with Qatar’s constitution, according to Human Rights Watch, but it continues to dominate spousal relations in the country.
The harsh conditions of migrants
Like other Persian Gulf monarchies, Qatar has made extensive use of migrant labor in recent decades, and especially for the construction of soccer stadiums for use in the World Cup.
The country has come under global scrutiny after thousands of deaths were reported among migrant workers, who often come from some of the world’s poorest countries to do dangerous jobs, in extreme heat and for low wages.
According to the British newspaper Guardianthe figure could rise to 6,500 workers killed since 2010, when Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup.
CNN has been unable to verify this figure, and the Qatari government has categorically denied the allegation.
“This is something that needs to be made absolutely clear. Absolutely clear. The number of fatalities in World Cup stadiums that are work related are three fatalities. There are just over 30 fatalities that are not related to the work,” Nasser al Khatel, chief executive of the committee organizing the World Cup in Qatar, told CNN.
But under scrutiny, Qatar has in recent years been making reforms to the labor regime for migrants: it established a minimum wage of US$275 a month and allowed employees to change jobs without permission from their employers (something impossible with the earlier system known as Kafala).
With reporting from CNN’s Amanda Davies, George Ramsay, Celine Alkhaldi and Irene Nasser.