In Saudi Arabia, "Gay" Rainbows Send You To Jail

While the United States seems poised for a transgender rights revolution, across the Atlantic in Saudi Arabia there is a witch-hunt being waged against the country’s LGBTQI community. Swap out countless articles about Caitlyn Jenner’s Versace gown and the strength of her words and replace them instead with this bit of news:

Riyadh’s Talaee Al-Noor International School in Saudi Arabia was fined 100,000 Riyals (around 25,000 euros) and the administrator of the school was thrown in jail because he had a rainbow mural painted along the outside of the school.

Rainbows are synonymous with the LGBTQI community internationally and have been a point of controversy in other anti-gay countries like Palestine. Naturally, the paintjob did not sit well with the Saudi government whose stance on homosexuality is draconian. According to the country’s Sharia law, homosexuality is a criminal offense and punishable by up to life in prison, fines and/or whipping/flogging, castration, torture and even death.

The verdict and condemnation came from the Saudi Society Channel’s official Twitter account, which is a branch of Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Within the country, this committee has become known as the “religious police” because of their strict enforcement of Sharia law—they have previously banned Valentine’s Day and cigarette smoking for women.

While it’s great to celebrate marriage equality and the rise of transgender rights in the United States, it’s also essential to remain aware of the ever-present dangers facing much of the international LGBTQI community. From Saudi Arabia and Palestine to Russia and Tunisia, equality is simply about the struggle to survive.

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