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BAHRAIN: Crackdown on homosexuality

April 25, 2008 |  8:29 am

Bahrain_flag_borders_2 After years of clamping down on gays, Bahraini officials believe they have found a sure-fire cure for the "dangerous" practice of homosexuality.

Instead of relying only on sporadically imprisoning gay adults, a number of lawmakers are pressing for draconian measures to uproot homosexuality altogether, starting with children.

They have urged the government to spy on kids at schools and "punish" any pupils "who veer towards homosexuality."

Gay_flag_svg_2 The news was met with fury and indignation by human rights groups and gay activists in the country. One anonymous Bahraini gay expressed his outrage to the English-language Gulf Daily News:

... it would be almost impossible to monitor the sexual leanings of students, without turning schools into concentration camp regimes. Even then, it would be impossible to stamp out homosexuality and that trying to hide it would only make it more attractive to curious youngsters.

Another comment posted on a blog dedicated to Middle East youth pointed out the absurdity of the plan:

Of course, many questions would have to be resolved before such rules can be implemented. What constitutes "homosexual behaviour" -- watching Teletubbies and drinking soy milk? Who will be in charge of monitoring students? What punishment would befall those veering towards homosexuality -- would there be camps to pump them with hormones as a cure?

The lawmakers said they were reacting to Bahrain's "growing gay problem" and "foreigners working at hair saloons and massage parlors".

By foreigners they mean the guest workers, mostly from the Philippines and Thailand, who come to Bahrain to do all the dirty work. Officials want to expel all those who act "gayishly" upon their arrival to Bahrain's airport and to crack down regularly on beauty centers and spas.

Ironically, Bahrainis are considered the most tolerant people in the Persian Gulf. Many young Arab men from nearby oil-rich states spend their weekends in this small Persian Gulf country to enjoy the more permissive atmosphere of the country.

Homosexuality is already punishable in Bahrain by up to 10 years of imprisonment or deportation.

Raed Rafei in Beirut

Graphics: From top, the flag of Bahrain and the flags of the gay rights movement.