Saudi Arabia protested the inclusion of gay rights in the United Nations’ new agenda for global development, saying on Sunday that it runs “counter to Islamic law.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told a U.N. summit of world leaders that "mentioning sex in the text, to us, means exactly male and female. Mentioning family means consisting of a married man and woman," and asserted the country’s right to disregard portions of the agenda that mandate any “deviations” from it, according to the Associated Press.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were officially adopted Friday, call for development agreements in fields ranging from healthcare to economic equity. Some targets, which relate to universal access to reproductive healthcare and protection of sexual and gender orientation, have faced opposition from the Vatican and nations like Saudi Arabia. The Vatican has previously expressed "reservations" about the SDGs' language surrounding sexual and reproductive rights.
The SDGs lay out an ambitious list of 17 goals to be met within 15 years, which the U.N. hopes will be a “launch pad for action by the international community and by national governments to promote shared prosperity and well-being.”
The new objectives replace the Millennium Development Goals that focused largely on poverty and healthcare issues. The SDGs broaden the focus by challenging inequality and also shift attention to combating climate change.
Homosexuality is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, and the Middle Eastern country has drawn international censure for its policies, which are based on a draconian enforcement of Sharia law. Recent police raids on parties attended primarily by gay people have resulted in several arrests.
However, despite the country’s strict laws, it is home to a large gay population that lives in secret. Homosexuals are reportedly left unbothered as long as they maintain a public persona that fits expected norms. The Saudi capital Riyadh has even been called “gay heaven” because of the number of gay men who live there, the Atlantic reported.