SAUDI ARABIA
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LGBT+ Business Climate Score

Out Leadership’s snapshot of the current state of affairs for LGBT+ people, through the lens of international business. The Business Climate Score score is out of ten possible points, and is based on ten independently verifiable indicators of the legal, cultural and business context for LGBT+ people.

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1.
Are consensual homosexual acts between adults legal?
0
No
2.
Are marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples available?
0
No relationship recognition
3.
Is being LGBT+ punishable by death?
0.5
Yes, but in practice it's not reported
4.
Are sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment prohibited?
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No
5.
Can transgender people legally change their gender markers?
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No
6.
Is sex reassignment surgery at birth for intersex children prohibited?
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No
7.
Are sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the provision of goods and services prohibited?
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No
8.
Is there a U.S. State Department warning against travel for LGBT+ individuals?
0.5
Not an official warning but caution is encouraged
9.
Do companies sponsor Pride?
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No
10.
Are there laws prohibiting freedom of assembly or speech for LGBT+ people (i.e. “anti-propaganda laws”, media gags, etc)?
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No, but officials act as though there were
Talking Points
  • Saudi Arabia’s persecution of LGBT+ people is keeping me from doing business with the kingdom. It’s hard to justify investing money in a country that is severely prejudiced against a segment of our employees and customers.
  • We put equal rights for all front and center in our operating philosophy, so we cannot justify investing our resources in the kingdom, so as long as LGBT+ people remain unsafe there. This view is not unique: as LGBT+ rights increasingly are viewed as fundamental, similarly to racial and gender equality, more and more businesses will think twice before expanding into a country that disregards human rights.
  • Recent surveys estimate that LGBT+ people make up 4-6% of the population of Saudi Arabia. Allowing these citizens to live safely and openly would give 1.2 to 1.7 million people the chance to more fully participate in Saudi Arabia’s social, cultural, political, and economic life.
Talking Points
Impact of LGBT Discrimination on Business and Talent
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    NO RISK
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    LOW RISK
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    MODERATE RISK
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    NOTABLE RISK
  • 5
    HIGH RISK
BRAND RISK
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    HIGH RISK
Homosexuality is completely illegal and punishable by death under Sharia law. There is therefore a high risk that doing business in Saudi Arabia would harm the brand’s reputation.
CLIENT RISK
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    HIGH RISK
For many companies, doing business in Saudi Arabia involves significant compromises on diversity and inclusion policies. Given the high-profile nature of the kingdom’s lack of individual freedoms, including for LGBT+ Saudis, LGBT+ clients may choose to move their business away from companies conducting business there.
TALENT RISK
  • 5
    HIGH RISK
Consensual same-sex relations, not to mention marriage or diversion from gender norms, are all illegal in Saudi Arabia. This would make it highly risky to relocate LGBT+ employees and their partners to the country.
MARKETING RISK
  • 5
    HIGH RISK
It would break Saudi law to openly market to LGBT+ consumers.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBT People:

Status of LGBT+ Organizing and Community

  • — There is no open LGBT+ organizing or community.
  • — However, there is a vibrant undercover gay community, especially in large cities and aided by the Islamic norm of keeping most public places gender-segregated.

Cultural Views of the LGBT+ Community

  • — A 2016 poll found that 46% of Saudis reported that they would be “very uncomfortable” if they had a gay or lesbian neighbor. However, a smaller percentage – 35% – thought being LGBT+ should be a crime.
  • — That said, the cosmopolitan cities in Saudi Arabia are known for having thriving gay scenes, largely enabled by the country’s strict gender segregation in both public and private spaces.
  • — The official religious view of LGBT+ people claims that same-sex attraction is a Western construct that should not be legitimized in an Islamic kingdom.
Local Leaders Advocating for LGBT Equality

Out Leadership encourages you and your company to engage in safe and cautious discussion with local leaders around LGBT+ equality and to leverage your firm’s influence to support their work. But this is virtually impossible in Saudi Arabia, where even hinting at being LGBT+ can be met with harsh sanction.

To learn more about how your business can work toward influencing change in Saudi Arabia for LGBT+ people, here are some global groups we recommend contacting: Human Rights Watch, OutRight Action International, Amnesty International, The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)