Shell in ‘pro-gay rights hypocrisy’ over Qatar: Oil giant to invest £1.3bn into North Field South project
Shell is being accused of hypocrisy for vaunting its pro-gay credentials online while pouring billions of pounds into Qatar’s homophobic regime.
The oil giant has dedicated a section of its website to highlighting its ‘support for LGBT+’ equality. But critics have rounded on the £170billion firm after it unveiled the latest stage of a partnership with state-owned QatarEnergy.
Shell will invest £1.3billion into Qatar’s North Field South project, it was revealed last week. The two announced a partnership in July to create the ‘largest project in the history of liquefied natural gas’.
Hypocrisy: Shell is vaunting its pro-gay credentials online while pouring billions of pounds into Qatar’s homophobic regime
LGBT+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and those of other sexual orientations and gender identities. Gay men and women are persecuted in the Arab nation, where homosexuality is considered abnormal and punishable by three years in jail.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who sits on Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said there was ‘clearly a mismatch’ between Shell’s words and Qatar’s ‘reprehensible’ actions. Veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said Shell was helping to boost the wealth of a ‘homophobic, sexist and racist regime’. Tatchell, who was last week detained for staging an LGBT protest in Qatar, said the oil firm was ‘colluding with a dictatorship’.
‘It is hypocritical the way Shell is claiming to support LGBT+ people while pouring money into a tyrannical anti-gay nation,’ he added. ‘Qatar arrests, jails and subjects LGBT+ people to abusive, damaging ‘conversion’ treatments which attempt to ‘correct’ their supposedly ‘faulty’ sexuality or gender identity. People of good conscience should consider boycotting Shell over its destruction of the environment and its aiding of an anti-LGBT+ autocracy.’
The oil giant claims it is committed to supporting LGBT people ‘wherever Shell operates’. It provides ‘awareness training’ on sexual orientation as part of its diversity and inclusivity programme, and says this includes countries where being LGBT may be illegal.
But it refused to condemn Qatar’s stance on LGBT rights and refused to commit to using its influence there to promote a change of stance.
This is despite a section of its website called ‘powering pride’ saying: ‘We are working to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender plus inclusion within Shell and the communities where we work.’
The website goes on to say that most of its work on LGBT+ inclusion ‘happens at a country level in line with local policies, laws and regulations.’
While some say consumers and firms should boycott Qatar over its stance on gay rights, others argue they should use their influence to push for change. Iain Anderson, head of H/Advisors Cicero and the UK Government’s former LGBT Business Champion, said firms had ‘an opportunity to engage’ and could talk to policy makers to create change.
Human Rights Watch researcher Rasha Younes, who investigates abuses of LGBT rights in the Middle East, said firms like Shell have ‘leverage’ to push authorities to change their laws and practices.
Younes said: ‘At the very least, they should be making public statements condemning these practices and pushing the Qatari authorities to uphold human rights as a condition for their operations in the country.’
She added that companies may be ‘paying lip service’ to LGBT rights.
The backlash against Shell’s investment in Qatar comes amid uproar about Fifa staging the 2022 World Cup there in three weeks.
Shell said: ‘One of our core values is respect for people, irrespective of gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation.’
It added it operated in compliance with local culture and local laws, and said its recent investment in Qatar was to bring an urgently need supply of new gas to the UK and Europe to alleviate supply pressures.