Several young men were arrested last week in Saudi Arabia in response to a viral video allegedly showing the wedding of a gay couple.
In the video, two men — one wearing what appears to be a veil — are seen walking together down an aisle as confetti rains down. The clip sparked outcry among conservatives in Saudi Arabia and non-Saudi Muslims, Newsweek reported.
زواج مثليين في مكه بس المظله والبخاخات حريقه pic.twitter.com/T4IcKEvOlt— Nawaf👨🏻🔧 (@nafxil2) January 3, 2018
The suspected wedding ceremony took place at resort near the holy city of Mecca, and was reported to the police by a man attending a separate festival at the resort who caught sight of the scene, the police said in statement.
“Measures were taken to identify the cross-dresser and his companions,” who have all since been arrested, the police said.
Homosexual acts are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. In fact, for married men or non-Muslim men who engage sodomy with Muslims, the penalty is stoning, according to the Washington Post. And though the Middle Eastern country has no explicit anti-transgender laws, it adheres to a strict interpretation of Shari’a law and has arrested numerous people on cross-dressing charges.
While Saudi Arabia has taken some steps to improve human rights in the country, particularly for women, in recent months, law enforcement’s hasty reaction to the video of the alleged wedding ceremony shows the country still has a long way to go in terms of ensuring equal rights for all.
“In a country that can punish homosexual acts with the death penalty, we must not jump to conclusions about the sexualities or gender identities [of the people in the video],” Jessica Stern, the Executive Director of LGBTQ rights organization OutRight Action International, told Global Citizen. “What we have is a short, blurry video shot outdoors that raises as many questions as it answers. To minimize danger to the people who were arrested and not fan backlash, the international community should respond with caution.”
According to Al Araby, the ceremony is being treated as a “prank performance” and the police have referred the cases of the arrested to the public prosecutor, though the actual charges have not been made public.
“We urge the Saudi authorities to release the individuals immediately and without penalty,” Stern said.
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