Prostitution in the United Arab Emirates
Prostitution in the United Arab Emirates is illegal both under federal law and Sharia. Punishments can be severe including imprisonment and flogging, and the Sharia courts may impose more severe punishments during Ramadan. Foreign prostitutes are deported after serving their sentences. In 2006 the UAE deported 4,300 foreign prostitutes.
Despite its illegality, prostitution is widespread, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The authorities generally turn a blind eye provided it is kept out of the public eye. There are however, occasional clampdowns.
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. Despite a law forbidding entry to unaccompanied females under 31 years of age, "agents arrange for prostitutes to enter the country on a 30 day tourist visa.
There has been a sex trade in Dubai for many years. In 1936, Sheikh Saeed's wali forced the prostitutes to get married or to leave. During the 1950's & 1960's, two madams controlled the Iranian prostitutes. One controlled the red-light district in Bur Dubai, the other around Nasser Square (now Baniyas Square). 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.
Modern Dubai is one of the main centres of prostitution in the UAE and is dubbed "Sodom-sur-Mer". There are estimated to be 30,000 prostitutes in the city. Prostitutes frequent the bars and nightclubs in the hotels. Many prostitutes from poorer countries, such as Nigeria, come to work in Dubai for a short while and then return home with their earnings.
There are also brothels in Dubai. The Cyclone, near the airport was closed down in 2007 after it was featured in Vanity Fair magazine, but the operation simply set up at another location. Known by visitors as the "United Nations of prostitution", the club have as many as 500 prostitutes on the premises on an average night, many from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Russia, Taiwan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The UAE attracts many foreign businessmen as it is slowly gaining a reputation as one of the Middle East's sex tourism destinations. Many of them arrive regularly from the post-Soviet states, South America, Eastern Europe, Far East, Africa, South Asia, and other states of the Middle East.
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. The UAE is a destination and transit country for women subjected to sex trafficking. 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. In 2016, 22 cases related to sex trafficking were brought before the courts.
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