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LGBT rights in the United Arab Emirates

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Title: LGBT rights in the United Arab Emirates  
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Subject: Human rights in the United Arab Emirates, Flag of the United Arab Emirates, Homosexuality in Macau, LGBT rights in Kuwait, LGBT rights in Kyrgyzstan
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LGBT rights in the United Arab Emirates

LGBT rights in United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal: Islamic Sharia Law is applied
ranges from Capital punishment to 1 month-life imprisonment prison time; to small prison sentences fines and deportation for foreigners. So far, although the law allows it, there have been no instances of any being sentenced to death.
Gender identity/expression
Discrimination protections None
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships

The United Arab Emirates includes the Emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras al-Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Fujairah and Sharjah. Sexual relations outside of a traditional, heterosexual marriage are a crime. Punishments range from jail time, fines, deportation, and the death penalty. Adultery and fornication are also crimes, and a person convicted of homosexuality may also face charges of adultery if they have a spouse while having sexual relations with a person of the same-sex. The laws, some of which were introduced by the British during the colonial period, are still vigorously enforced.

Federal Penal Code

Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code states, "Whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male shall be punished by death." While English translations of the Arabic text are in some dispute, it is generally felt that this is a prohibition against rape, and possibly consensual sodomy.

The Federal Penal Code does not replace the legal system of each emirate, unless it is contrary to the federal law, and thus Sharia law remains in place. Hence a person could be charged on this federal penal code, or under a local (emirate) penal code.

In 2013, it was announced that all the Gulf Cooperative Countries had agreed to establish some form of, yet unknown, testing in order to ban and deport gay foreigners.[1]

Living conditions

The U.S. Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Report found that,

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.[2]

Abu Dhabi

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

In 2005, twenty-six young men were arrested at an Abu Dhabi hotel after police discovered the men engaging in cross-dressing and homosexual practices.[3] 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”.[4] 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.[5] The men were all given a five-year prison sentence.[6]


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.

One such case involved the kidnapping and rape of a sixteen-year-old French Swiss boy by a group of men.[7] 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.[8] 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 as, "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.[9] Two of the men were later sentenced to 15 years in prison, which the family of the victim is appealing considering the fact that rape can carry the death penalty in the UAE.[10] The boy was also awarded AED15 million ($4 million USD) in civil compensation.[11]

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. Police caught one woman engaging in cunnilingus on the other woman on the beach.[12] 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.[13]

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 transvestite DJ, only to be shut down by the government.[14]

In 2011, two men were caught having sex in a car and were sentenced to a year each in prison. Both men were to be deported following their prison terms.[15]

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 will be deported following their prison terms.[16] 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.[17] On 21 March 2012, Police raided and broke up a gay party consisting of 30 men.[18] On 7 June 2012, a Belgian man admitted to Police he was in a homosexual relationship with a Filipino. He was arrested and jailed for a year to be followed by deportation.[19]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: Deportation, fines or prison time)
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
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No

See also


  1. ^ "Gulf Cooperation Countries to test, detect then ban gays from entering their countries". Retrieved 2013-10-10. 
  2. ^ , Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, pagee 232011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: United Arab Emirates
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ [5]
  8. ^ [6]
  9. ^ [7]
  10. ^ Katz, Becky Lee (17 June 2010). "Alleged victim of gang rape sentenced to one year in prison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  11. ^ Fabrizio, Antonio. "Men sentenced for Dubai rape of 15-year-old boy". Pink News. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  12. ^ [8]
  13. ^ [9]
  14. ^ "Dubai closes club after gay night". BBC News. 1 April 2001. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Littauer, Dan (21 March 2012). "Dubai Police Chief Denies Reports Of Gay Arrests". Huffington Post. 
  19. ^
  • SodomyLaws UAE

External links

  • UK government travel advice for the United Arab Emirates: Local laws and customs
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