Prostitution in the United Arab Emirates

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Prostitution in the United Arab Emirates is illegal.[1][2] Punishments for engaging in prostitution include heavy fines and imprisonment, with foreign prostitutes typically being deported from the UAE.[3] In 2006 the UAE deported 4,300 foreign prostitutes.[4] Despite its illegality, prostitution is widespread, especially in Dubai[5][6] and Abu Dhabi.[6][7] The authorities generally turn a blind eye provided it is kept out of the public eye.[5]

UAE nationals are permitted a number of residence visas. These are mainly used for domestic staff, but any surplus are often sold through middlemen to prostitutes to enter and remain in the country for two years. Residence visas may change hands at upwards of £5,000.[5] And, "agents arrange for prostitutes to enter the country on a 30-day tourist visa.[5]

Although there is street prostitution, notably Hamdan Street in Abu Dhabi,[7] most prostitution takes place in the bars and nightclubs of hotels.[5][6]


Sex trade in Dubai has been prevalent for many years. In 1936, Sheikh Saeed's wali forced the prostitutes to get married or to leave.[8] During the 1950s and 1960s, two madams controlled the Persian prostitutes. One controlled the red-light district in Bur Dubai, the other around Nasser Square (now Baniyas Square).[8] Sheikh Rashid ordered that all the prostitutes were rounded up and deported. This caused a run on the local British bank when the women tried to draw out all their savings.[8]

Modern Dubai is one of the main centres of prostitution in the UAE and is dubbed "Sodom-sur-Mer".[5] Prostitutes frequent the bars and nightclubs in the hotels.[5][6] Many prostitutes from poorer countries, such as Nigeria,[9] come to work in Dubai for a short while and then return home with their earnings.

Prostitution, although prohibited, is prevalent and easily accessible in Dubai. Women engaged in this business operate in brothels or massage establishments situated in the city's red-light areas. However, it is not only women, but also men who offer their services in the city. Typically, red-light districts are located in the city's more established areas, such as Deira and Bur Dubai.[10]

There are also brothels in Dubai.[8] The Cyclone, near the airport[5] was closed down in 2007 after it was featured in Vanity Fair magazine,[8] but the operation simply set up at another location.[5] Known by visitors as the "United Nations of prostitution", the club has as many as 500 prostitutes on the premises on an average night, many from China, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Taiwan.[11][12]

The Cyclone appeared in the 2008 Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe film Body of Lies.[8]

Human trafficking is a problem in Dubai,[5][6] often Chinese or other Asian criminal groups force women from India or Nepal into prostitution in UAE.[5] There are many Iranian prostitutes in Dubai and some of them stay in the city for a long time.[13] In 2014, Iranian Immigration & Passport Police Office announced that the number of Iranian prostitutes in the UAE is growing.[14]

Over the years, Dubai emerged as an influencer capital of the world, where the social media influencers used their popularity to depict the city’s extravagance. However, on the dark side of influencer marketing culture in Dubai were several influencers who had been funding their lifestyle by selling sex for thousands of pounds. Influencers get direct messages from men on Instagram, respond to them and agree to meet. Men pay them with flights, jewellery, bags and cash. Besides, interviews revealed that influencers with more followers are paid more.[15]

Sex tourism[edit]

The UAE attracts many foreign businessmen as it is gaining a reputation as the Middle East's top sex tourism destination.[16][3][6][9][17][18][19][20][21][22] Many of them arrive regularly from the post-Soviet states, South America, Eastern Europe, East Asia, Africa, South Asia, and other states of the Middle East.[23]

Sex trafficking[edit]

In 2007, the United States State Department placed the United Arab Emirates as a "Tier 2" in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports, meaning that it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.[5][24] The UAE is a destination and transit country for women subjected to sex trafficking.[25] Some women, predominantly from Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Iraq, Iran, and Morocco, are subjected to forced prostitution in the UAE.[25] In 2016, 22 cases related to sex trafficking were brought before the courts.[25]


  1. ^ "The Legal Status of Prostitution by Country". ChartsBin. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  2. ^ "100 Countries and Their Prostitution Policies". Procon. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b Agarib, Amira. "UAE has strict rules against prostitution – Khaleej Times". Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  4. ^ Presse, France (16 March 2007). "UAE Deports 4,300 Prostitutes". Arab News. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Butler, William (16 May 2010). "Why Dubai's Islamic austerity is a sham – sex is for sale in every bar". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lageman, Thessa (20 January 2016). "Dubai in United Arab Emirates a centre of human trafficking and prostitution". Retrieved 21 March 2017 – via The Sydney Morning Herald.
  7. ^ a b Dajani, Haneen Dajani; Al Subaihi (22 August 2016). "Abu Dhabi residents complain of continued harassment from 'street escorts'". The National. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Krane, Jim (1 December 2009). Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1782397601.
  9. ^ a b Banjo, Temi (27 January 2014). "Revealed: Nigerian Ladies And Prostitution In United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai". Nigerian Monitor. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  10. ^ Bajwa, Muzaffar Ahmad Noori (27 January 2023). "Prostitution in Dubai: Understanding the Dark Side of the City". The Eastern Herald. The Eastern Herald. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  11. ^ Chirico, Annalisa. "Prostitution as a matter of freedom" (PDF). Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  12. ^ Prostitution: Ukraine's Unstoppable Export
  13. ^ "Iranian Women and Dubai's Sex Market". IranWire | خانه. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  14. ^ Hamedani, Ali (9 February 2014). "BBC قصه روسپیان ایرانی در هزار و یک شب دوبی" [The story of Iranian prostitutes in Dubai one night]. BBC News (in Arabic). Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  15. ^ "The dark side of Dubai: Instagram stars sell sex to fund lavish lifestyle". The Times. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  16. ^ Ditmore, Melissa Hope, ed. (2006). Encyclopedia of prostitution and sex work. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0313329685.
  17. ^ "Sex tourism: A billion dollar industry (Part 1) – Weekly BLiTZ". 8 October 2016. Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  18. ^ "Sex tourism: A billion dollar industry (Part 2) – Weekly BLiTZ". 16 October 2016. Archived from the original on 27 October 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  19. ^ Choudhury, Salah Uddin Shoaib (19 August 2011). "Removing curtains of Arab harems". Weekly Blitz. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  20. ^ "FRONTLINE/WORLD . Rough Cut . Dubai: Night Secrets – PBS". PBS. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  21. ^ "U.A.E.: Muslim Federation of States Is Hub of International Prostitution". Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Local laws and customs – United Arab Emirates travel advice – Government of the United Kingdom". Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  23. ^ United Arab Emirates, US Department of State: Diplomacy in Action
  24. ^ Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report 2007, U.S. State Department, June 2007
  25. ^ a b c "United Arab Emirates 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report". United States Department of State • Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking Persons. 2017. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.