Officials in Saudi Arabia are seizing rainbow-coloured toys and clothing from shops in the capital city of Riyadh, in the midst of a crackdown on homosexuality, saying that the colours send a “poisoned message” to children.
A video report by the state-run Al-Ekhbariya on Tuesday, 14 June showed commerce ministry officials removing an array of items from shops.
Rainbow-coloured bows, skirts, caps, and pencil cases manufactured for children were a few items targeted during recent raids, according to the report.
An official from the commerce ministry, involved in the campaign, said, “We are giving a tour of the items that contradict the Islamic faith and public morals and promote homosexual colours targeting the younger generation,” AFP reported.
While the kingdom opened its doors to tourism in 2019, like other Gulf countries, it has been criticised for its human rights record, including outlawing homosexuality, making it a potential capital offence.
“The homosexuality flag is present in one of the Riyadh markets,” a journalist told AFP, gesturing towards a rainbow flag.
Saudi officials added that the colours send a “poisoned message” to children.
While the Al-Ekhbaria report did not detail the number of shops targeted or a list of seized items, visuals released by the ministry show officials seizing several rainbow-themed products.
State-Wide Crackdown on Homosexuality
The raids come at a time when the kingdom has banned the screening of films that depict, or refer to sexual minorities.
Disney’s latest animation film, Lightyear, which featured a same-sex kiss, was banned in the kingdom, a source close to Disney said, the AFP report added.
Earlier in April, the kingdom asked Disney to remove “LGBTQ references” from Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but Disney declined, The Guardian reported.
Regulators in the Kingdom also objected to a 12-second scene where a character speaks of her “two mums.” While government officials claimed that they are trying to work with Disney to find a solution, the film was not screened in the Saudi cinemas.
According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter in November 2021, the film Eternals, which featured a homosexual couple, prompted similar edit requests from Saudi Arabia, amongst other Gulf countries, which Disney refused to entertain. Ultimately, the film did not screen in the kingdom.
As a part of a series of social reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas in 2017. The country has since seen vast growth in ticket sales, with revenues reaching close to $240 million in 2021, an increase of 95 percent since 2020, Variety magazine reported in January.
(With inputs from AFP, Al-Ekhbariya, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety.)