MANILA, Philippines- Wearing drag at a private event may be harmless fun in many societies, but 72 Filipino men found out they could suffer imprisonment and lashing in Saudi Arabia for such activities after they were arrested for immorality recently.
An article in the Arabic news site www.sabq.org said several “deviants," a term used by Saudi Arabia’s English-language media to describe people who engage in gay behavior, were rounded up during a concert inside a compound in an eastern Riyadh neighborhood.
The report quoted unnamed police officials as saying a "large number of foreign workers" were arrested in the incident, and 72 of them have Philippine citizenship.
Vice Consul Roussel Reyes of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh told GMANews.TV by phone on Tuesday that they are still confirming the identities of the Filipinos and will seek their employers’ help to bail them out.
Open display of homosexual behavior is strictly prohibited under Saudi Arabia’s Sharia’h law. In extreme cases, such as when the unless the government feels that homosexuals are challenging state authority, the maximum punishment for the act is public execution.
Normally, however, other punishments such as fines, imprisonment, and whipping as alternatives. Individuals caught wearing even just one article of women’s clothing could face three to six months imprisonment, and suffer between 50 and 100 lashes with a rattan stick.
Reyes said nearly 50 other Filipinos have been arrested and jailed in the past for similar violations.
Only sponsors are able to bail out foreign workers who are imprisoned, as long as they provide assurance that the accused would show up in court during trial.In August last year, Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrested several Filipinos in a gay party in the country’s eastern province for "lewd behavior" as well as possession of drugs and alcohol. Arrested foreign nationals are often deported after serving their jail sentence. -