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LGBT rights in the United Arab Emirates

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LGBT rights in United Arab Emirates
StatusIllegal: Islamic Sharia law is applied
PenaltyDeath, life in prison, floggings,[1] fines, deportation, chemical castration,[2][3] forced psychological treatments,[4] honor killings,[5] vigilante executions,[6][7] beatings,[8][9] forced anal examinations,[10] forced hormone injections,[11] and torture.[8][12]
Gender identityNo
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex relationships

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the United Arab Emirates face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT people. All sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage are criminalized. Punishments include death, life in prison, floggings,[1] fines, deportation, chemical castration,[2][3] forced psychological treatments,[4] honor killings,[5] vigilante executions,[6][7] beatings,[8][9] forced anal examinations,[10] forced hormone injections,[11] and torture.[8][12] Adultery and fornication are crimes punished with death, and a person convicted of homosexuality may also face charges of adultery if they have an opposite-sex spouse while having sexual relations with a person of the same sex. Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE, and is punishable by the death penalty under sharia law.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity

Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code states: "Whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male shall be punished by death."[13] The Federal Penal Code, which follows Sharia Law, does not replace the legal system of each emirate, unless it is contrary to the federal law. Hence a person could be charged with the Federal Penal Code, or under a local (emirate) penal code. Death, life in prison, fines, floggings,[14][15] deportation,[16][17][18][19][9][20] chemical castrations,[2][3] forced psychological treatments,[4] beatings,[8][9] forced hormone injections,[11] forced anal examinations,[10] and torture[8][12][21] are all legal penalties.

Abu Dhabi

Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable by imprisonment of up to 14 years.[22] Several news reports have revealed how the law is typically enforced.[23] Cross-dressing is likewise illegal.

In 2005, 26 young men were arrested at an Abu Dhabi hotel after police discovered the men engaging in cross-dressing and homosexual practices.[24] In discussing the raid, Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri, Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Auqaf stated, "There will be no room for homosexual and queer acts in the UAE. Our society does not accept queer behaviour, either in word or in action".[24] Initial reports suggested that some of these men were ordered to be given experimental hormone treatments, although the Government subsequently backed off from these statements.[24] The men were all given a five-year prison sentence.[24]

On 9 August 2017, Emirati police in Abu Dhabi detained two Singaporean nationals in a shopping mall. A court convicted them of crimes and sentenced them to one year in prison "for attempting to resemble women". The UAE deported them on 28 August after they spent nearly three weeks in custody, much of that time in a cell they said was designated for "effeminate" people.[25]


Article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy. The most common depiction in the local media of LGBT people involves foreigners, disease, and sex crimes such as rape.[26]

In July 2007,[27] a case involved the kidnapping and rape of a sixteen-year-old French Swiss boy by a group of men.[28] The boy stated in a closed court session that soon after leaving the arcade, he saw a 17-year-old acquaintance who offered to drive him home and after him entering the SUV and driving past his home, the three men soon after raped the boy.[27][29] Initially, the police treated the victim as a suspect and the fear of being charged under Article 177 prompted the boy and his family to leave the country.[28] The mother accused the United Arab Emirates authorities of not notifying the family of the victim that one of the rapists was HIV-positive, testing positive 2003, thus delaying the seeking of medical attention for her son.[29] The Dubai Police Chief brushed aside this accusation stating "The case is a court case ... I think she is blaming everyone …"[29] Eventually, no formal charges were brought against the teenager who returned to testify against his rapists. The story generated international media attention with government representatives defending the criminal laws against homosexuality, saying: "This is a conservative society. Homosexuality, conducted homosexuality is an illegal act. And we are not ashamed of that." The boy's mother had launched an international campaign to boycott Dubai for the treatment of her son, but ended the campaign when the Government agreed to certain demands.[30] The boy was also awarded AED15 million (US$4 million) in civil compensation.[31]

In 2008, two lesbian tourists were given a one-month jail sentence and then deported for engaging in public displays of affection while visiting a beach.[32] The trial, reportedly the first of its kind, prompted the police to create a special task force to combat homosexuality and other "indecent acts" from taking place on the beaches.[33]

The legal and social sanctions against LGBT people mean that no formal LGBT organizations or nightclubs exist in Dubai. One nightclub called the Diamond Club sponsored a special night for the LGBT community, featuring a British cross-dressing DJ, only to be shut down by the Government.[34]

In 2011, two men were caught having sex in a car and were sentenced to a year each in prison. One man was Pakistani, 24, while the other was Filipino, 33, both found guilty of "homosexuality", which occurred in the International City area of Dubai.[35] Both men were deported following their prison terms.[36]

In 2012, police arrested two Indian men for having consensual sex in a public toilet at a bus station. Both were jailed for six months each and were deported following their prison terms.[37] In the same year, a 28-year-old British man who drunkenly had sex with another man in public were both sentenced to three years in jail followed by deportation.[38] On 21 March 2012, police raided and broke up a gay party consisting of 30 men.[39] On 7 June 2012, a Belgian man admitted to police that he was in a homosexual relationship with a Filipino. He was arrested and jailed for a year to be followed by deportation.[40]

In December 2013, Karen Mke and Kamilla Satto, two transgender women from Brazil, were arrested at a hotel nightclub in Dubai for "imitating women" after calling the police due to prejudices they witnessed in the nightclub.[41] After the law enforcement arrived to the nightclub and learned the two were transgender, they were arrested and the two were detained for two days without any explanation.[41] The women were not allowed to leave Dubai once their passports were taken, and faced criminal charges.[42] The two were held in Dubai until their sentencing in March 2014 and were fined by the courts Dh 10,000 ($2722.50) and ordered to be deported.[43]

Canadian YouTuber and model Gigi Gorgeous, who is a transgender woman, was detained for five hours by officials at Dubai International Airport on 9 August 2016 due to authorities not recognizing her gender as legitimate. Her passport was confiscated during her detention. After being released from detention, she departed immediately for Sweden.[44]

In October 2017, Jamie Harron from Stirling, Scotland, faced a three-year jail sentence after putting his hand on a man in a bar so as to not "bump and spill drinks". He was arrested for public indecency after touching the man's hip.[45] The charges of public indecency were eventually dropped following the intervention of the ruler of the Emirate Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.[46]

Gender identity and expression

Sex reassignment surgery is illegal.[47][48]

Crossdressing is illegal and punishable.[49][50]

Gay conversion or cure therapy is promoted and supported by the UAE government.[51]

In September 2016, the Government passed Federal Decree No 4 (Arabic: مرسوم بقانون اتحادي رقم 4), a series of changes to reduce doctors' criminal liability. The new law allows doctors to only perform medical interventions on intersex people.

Living conditions

The U.S. Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Report found that:[52]

both civil law and Sharia criminalize homosexual activity. Under Sharia[,] the death penalty is the punishment for individuals who engage in consensual homosexual activity. There were no prosecutions for homosexual activity during ... [2011]. At times[,] the government subjected persons to psychological treatment and counseling for homosexual activity. Cross-dressing is a punishable offense. The government deported cross-dressing foreign residents and referred citizens to public prosecutors.

Internet censorship

The Government in the United Arab Emirates has restricted access to various websites and monitors chat rooms, instant messages and blogs. There were only a few reports of prosecutions and punishments but many people on the internet have been censored their conversations and identity in gay chat rooms. The country's only internet service provider has a proxy server which blocks any website that goes against the country's moral values. Sites regarding dating or marriage, LGBT issues, the Baha'I faith or sites related to unblocking the censorship are all inaccessible. Reports even suggest that any site with the word gay or sex is blocked.[53]

Public opinion

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society's view on homosexuality, how they are treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. The UAE was ranked 85th with a GHI score of 37.[54]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: death, life in prison, floggings,[1] fines, deportation, chemical castration,[2][3] forced psychological treatments,[4] Honor killings,[5] vigilante executions,[6][7] beatings,[8][9] forced anal examinations,[10] forced hormone injections,[11] and torture.[8][12])
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Conversion therapy illegal No the UAE Government encourages conversion therapy and promotes it[51]
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also


  1. ^ a b c Guzman, Chaveli (26 June 2018). "Nader Tabsh: From suppressing his sexuality to living unapologetically". The Oracle. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d "REPORT: 30 GAYS ARRESTED AT DUBAI PARTY". MambaOnline - Gay South Africa online. 18 March 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Bollinger, Alex (17 August 2019). "The 1975's lead singer kissed a man on stage in Dubai to protest anti-gay laws". LGBTQ Nation.
  4. ^ a b c d "United Arab Emirates - Executive Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^ a b c "Matt Healy feels 'irresponsible' after kissing male fan at Dubai concert". 10 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Pride at ESUC". 2 June 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Mendos, Lucas Ramón (2019). "State-Sponsored Homophobia 13 Edition" (PDF). Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e Duffy, Nick (22 December 2015). "Judge blocks extradition of gay British man to UAE, where gays can face death penalty". PinkNews.
  10. ^ a b c d "Refworld | Together, Apart: Organizing around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Worldwide".
  11. ^ a b c d Douglas, Benji (14 September 2012). "Gays In The United Arab Emirates Face Flogging, Hormone Injections, Prison". Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d Duffy, Nick (22 December 2015). "Judge blocks extradition of gay British man to UAE, where gays can face death penalty". Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Article 354 of Federal Law 3 of the Penal Code (Prohibition of Sexual Violence)". Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  14. ^ "LGBT Couple Safety Worldwide". 16 September 2020. Archived from the original on 26 May 2021.
  15. ^ Douglas, Benji (14 September 2012). "Gays In The United Arab Emirates Face Flogging, Hormone Injections, Prison".
  16. ^ "» A Guide To Moving To The UAE – Laws & Regulations". 8 August 2012. Archived from the original on 6 August 2017. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Homosexuality in the UAE". detainedindubai.
  18. ^ Nordland, Rod (11 November 2017). "Holding Hands, Drinking Wine and Other Ways to Go to Jail in Dubai". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "Homosexuality can still mean the death penalty in many countries". 9 September 2018.
  20. ^ Dawn Ennis (5 October 2016). "One photo of gay man in drag lands him on death row in Abu Dhabi". LGBT Nation.
  21. ^ "Raped and tortured in a Dubai prison: Former managing director of Leeds United reveals the hell he endured after being jailed and outed as gay by authorities in UAE". 8 November 2017.
  22. ^ "United Arab Emirates LGBTI Resources | Rights in Exile Programme". Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  23. ^ "UAE jails Singapore pair for wearing women's clothes". BBC News. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  24. ^ a b c d "". Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  25. ^ "UAE: Stop Policing Gender Expression". Human Rights Watch. 7 September 2017.
  26. ^ "Six things you absolutely mustn't do in Dubai". The Independent. 12 October 2017.
  27. ^ a b Cambanis, Thanassis (31 October 2007). "Dubai and rape: French youth tells his story". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  28. ^ a b "'They Destroyed Me': French Teen's Rape Case Exposes Dubai's Dark Side - ABC News". 19 February 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  29. ^ a b c "Dubai court hears French boy's rape testimony". Reuters. 7 November 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  30. ^ "Paris, 4 January 2008". Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  31. ^ Fabrizio, Antonio. "Men sentenced for Dubai rape of 15-year-old boy". Pink News. Archived from the original on 17 April 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  32. ^ Hipps, James (2 September 2008). "Lesbian Couple Jailed for Kissing on Dubai Beach". Archived from the original on 16 January 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  33. ^ "Dubai police target indecent acts on beaches". 7 July 2008. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  34. ^ "Dubai closes club after gay night". BBC News. 1 April 2001.
  35. ^ "Two get one-year jail terms for performing oral sex on each other". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  36. ^ Za'Za, Bassam (23 June 2011). "Car sex earns men one-year sentences | The National". Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  37. ^ Za'Za', Bassam (10 April 2012). "Two men jailed for consensual sex". Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  38. ^ Littauer, Dan (12 April 2012). "Dubai: British man jailed for three years for public gay sex". PinkNews. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  39. ^ Littauer, Dan (21 March 2012). "Dubai Police Chief Denies Reports Of Gay Arrests". Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  40. ^ Coleman, Aaron (6 June 2012). "Man In Dubai Gets 1 Year In Prison For Gay Relationship / Queerty". Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  41. ^ a b Molloy, Parker Marie (24 January 2014). "Brazilian Trans Women Detained in Dubai for 'Imitating Women'". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  42. ^ Littauer, Dan (23 January 2014). "Brazil transgender women accosted, detained in Dubai for 'imitating women'". LGBTQ Nation.
  43. ^ "Karen Mke and Kamilla Satto (United Arab Emirates)". 23 January 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  44. ^ Sieczkowski, Cavan (10 August 2016). "YouTube Star Was Allegedly Detained In Dubai Airport Because She's Trans".
  45. ^ Riordan, Conor (7 October 2017). "British tourist facing jail in Dubai 'after accidentally touching man's hip'". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  46. ^ "Charges dropped against Dubai Scot". 23 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  47. ^ Moukhallati, Dana (26 September 2016). "New law does not legalise sex change". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016.
  48. ^ "UAE rejects three transgender Emirati women's bid for gender status change". Al Arabiya English. 23 March 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  49. ^ Browning, Bil (5 January 2021). "One of the most anti-gay countries is about to host a conference on LGBTQ rights". LGBTQ Nation.
  50. ^ "UAE jails Singapore pair for wearing women's clothes". BBC News. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  51. ^ a b "UAE: Pulled 'gay cure' video gets 'unprecedented' media interest". 27 February 2012.
  52. ^ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: United Arab Emirates , Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, p.23
  53. ^ Internet Censorship, Homosexuality in the UAE
  54. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Archived 12 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine Planet Romeo

External links

{United Arab Emirates topics}}