The possibility of a “gay test” being imposed in the future on expatriates and travellers to the Gulf states is raising concerns locally.
The Gulf states — including Qatar, where the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) has a campus — is developing a test to detect homosexuals and keep them out of that region, according to reports by the U.K.-based Daily Mail Online and other international media.
According to the Daily Mail website, which quoted Kuwait’s Arabic-language newspaper Al Rai, the Gulf Co-operation Countries (GCC) — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — are toughening their stance on homosexuality by proposing such a test.
The Gulf countries deem homosexual acts unlawful. Yousouf Mindkar, the director of public health at the Kuwaiti health ministry, told Al Rai that a medical test to measure homosexuality is in the works, and a committee will be set up to investigate the proposal next month.
“Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries. However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states,” Mindkar said, according to a quote in the Mail Online.
According to U.K. paper The Independent, Mindkar indicated routine clinical screenings of expatriates entering GCC such as Kuwait would be introduced at airports, and anyone identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) through the tests would be refused entry into the country.
The Qatar campus of College of the North Atlantic has several hundred employees.
This province’s public college has been operating a campus in the Middle Eastern country since 2002 and it has grown to be one of the largest post-secondary institutions there. The state of Qatar pays a management fee for CNA to run the college campus and train Qataris.
CNA spokesman Stephen Lee said Tuesday the news reports forwarded to him by The Telegram were the first anyone’s heard of the so-called test.
“College of the North Atlantic requires time to investigate reports of a new medical test designed to detect homosexuals entering Gulf Co-operation Countries, including Qatar, before determining if it will have any impact on its operations there,” the college said in an emailed statement.
Both Liberal critic Andrew Parsons and NDP critic Dale Kirby are concerned about the implications if the test ever materializes and is imposed on Newfoundland and Labrador expats among the college staff.
“It seems absurd,” Parsons said of the claim of a medical test that detects homosexuality. “But depending on where this goes, this has to be monitored.”
He said it’s obviously a cause for concern for any Newfoundlanders and Labradorians or Canadians pursuing opportunities in Qatar.
While he acknowledged that different countries have laws contrary to Canadian beliefs, the prospect of subjecting people to the so-called test is worrisome.
“Whether this actually goes anywhere, I think you monitor it and keep apprised of any developments,” he said. “I hope it’s just a story and it goes away.”
Kirby said the test makes little sense.
“I am not aware of any medical product that can pinpoint sexual orientation,” he said. “It’s something that’s absolutely bizarre and appears to be fairly poorly thought out.”
He noted the college has had a presence in Qatar for more than a decade and while there have been some well-publicized workplace concerns, the college has worked in recent times to address managerial issues.
But Kirby said he’s not aware of any discriminatory hiring practices.
“I would be very concerned if there were,” he said.
Kirby said the presence of the college in Qatar has been beneficial financially and culturally, and he noted other North American institutions and companies have involvement there as well.
But as for the proposed test, Kirby said it may go nowhere.
“It appears to me as an individual this is some foolishness somebody with a less liberal perspective is up to over there for a political purpose,” he said.
“I hope not to be proven wrong. … We would have some serious objections to our nationals over there being treated in that way.”
Noah Davis-Power, an advocate for the LBGT community in this province, was startled by the news report.
“It’s quite dangerous either way for the employees and students,” he said.
He said the only positive thing is the Gulf states seem to be acknowledging that homosexuality is not a choice, by labelling their plan “medical.” Still, he’s alarmed at the prospect.
“I can’t imagine what the medical test is going to be,” Davis-Power said. “It’s absolutely insane regardless. … It looks to me like a witch hunt.
“The bottom line is it puts Canadians and Newfoundland workers in a compromised position of safety, unfortunately.”
This spring, the college signed a new agreement with the state of Qatar to continue running the school for at least another three years.
The International Business Times is reporting the proposed so-called gay tests have prompted a London-based LBGT campaigner to lobby FIFA to cancel the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.