Saudi Arabia won’t have gay rights anytime soon, according to the country’s Interior Ministry, which said it opposed such protections for gay people on the grounds that homosexuality does not fit with Islamic law. The ministry said in a post on its Twitter account that it supported other types of internationally recognized human rights, just not those specific to gays and lesbians, according to Arab News.
Earlier this week, government officials said they would stand firm in their opposition to gay rights and would not tolerate international criticism of its human rights policies, the country’s representative to the UN Faisal bin Hasan Trad said Monday during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Trad said calls for Saudi Arabia to support gay rights were “unacceptable” and a “flagrant interference in its internal affairs.”
Virtually all citizens of Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest producer and largest exporter of oil, are Muslim. It is the only Arab country that practices sharia law, a legal system based on the teachings of Islam, as its only legal code. Among the things technically banned under sharia law are smoking, drinking, and same-sex relations. Sex outside marriage remains illegal, and sodomy is an offense punishable by death.
The topic of homosexuality is often taboo in the country and can be met with imprisonment. Recent police raids on parties attended primarily by gay people have resulted in several arrests and were part of authorities’ latest crackdown on LGBT communities. In July 2014, one gay man was sentenced to three years in jail for “promoting the vice and practice of homosexuality.”
Despite they country’s anti-gay policies, Saudi Arabia is home to a large gay population that lives relatively under the radar and usually goes unbothered, as long as members of the community maintain a public persona that fits with Islamic law. Some have even called the Saudi capital “gay heaven” because of the prevalence of gay men who live there, according to the Atlantic.