Anti-Gay Law Threatens Morocco World Cup Bid

A review of Morocco’s 2026 FIFATM World Cup bid documents carried out by Associated Press indicates that the bid did not adequately disclose or address the now fundamental human rights issue of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Simply put, amendments to FIFA Statutes (since 2013) now include sexual orientation as one of the grounds upon which discrimination is “strictly prohibited”. In Morocco (like Nigeria) homosexuality is a criminal offence and pro-LGBT activists argue against the hosting of international sporting events in such countries, where LGBT people could be discriminated against, if not prosecuted.

The arguments still rage ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the hosting rights for which were awarded before FIFA expanded its anti-discrimination policy to specifically include homosexuality. There have been calls for FIFA to pressure both hosts (Russia and Qatar respectively) to relax their anti-gay laws. Unless the subject is downplayed, the Morocco bid could serve as a test case on how this aspect of FIFA’s (and generally sports) regulatory policy can measure up to conflicting domestic laws and a further pointer to the dynamic potency of sport in shaping society.

With Morocco presenting one of the two competing bids for the 2026 World Cup, while its anti-LGBT stance could seem to be an early disadvantage, it is hardly conclusive. Under FIFA’s Human Rights Policy, it is acknowledged that there are instances where national laws/regulations and international human rights standards are in conflict with each other. In opting to follow what it calls the higher standard, FIFA acknowledges that it will not infringe upon domestic laws and regulations; but will constructively engage with the relevant authorities and make every effort to uphold its international human rights responsibilities.

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