(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
All sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and carries a penalty of “confinement for a minimum period of one year” (UAE Penal Code article 356).
The UAE Penal Code is ambiguous as to whether homosexuality is punishable by death. The Arabic of article 354 is written in such a way that it could be taken as condemning all male homosexual intercourse to the death penalty or only forced male homosexual intercourse. Amnesty International interprets the article as condemning perpetrators of rape of both men and women to death, but it can also be translated:“Whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male”(ILGA:State Sponsored Homophobia, p 44 footnote 206). Considering that all extra-marital sexual activity is illegal, rape victims may be sentenced too.
Under Islamic law, consensual homosexual relations are punishable by predetermined penalties (flogging and hanging among them). Islamic courts work alongside the civil and criminal courts in the UAE and are primarily responsible for civil matters between Muslims. The United Arab Emirates have replaced the Sharia penalties for homosexuality with jail terms and fines and there are no recorded cases of the death penalty being incurred for consensual sodomy.
Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code (Arabic only) prohibits “personal intercourse contrary to nature” with penalties of imprisonment for up to fourteen years. Article 177 of the Dubai Penal Code criminalises consensual sodomy with penalties of imprisonment for up to ten years.
The UAE constitution makes no reference to protection from gender or sexuality-based discrimination.
Of the treaties with articles pertaining to discrimination based on sexual orientation, the UAE has not signed the following: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979).
It has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in which Article 2 can be used to address sexual orientation of parents or children.
No published cases pertaining to refugees have been found. We would be grateful if users of this website could refer us to any asylum cases of LGBTI persons fleeing the UAE.
The US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on the UAE 2018 states that ‘there were no reports of arrests or prosectuions for consensual same-sex activity.’
History of conviction within the UAE:
2020 – The first gay romantic comedy in Bollywood was reportedly banned in the UAE.
2017 – Police detained two Singaporeans in a shopping mall. One was a cisgender male photographer and the other a trans woman. They were sentenced to one year in prison ‘for attempting to resemble women.’ After spending three weeks in custody they were deported.
2012 – Authorities sentenced a Belgian man to one year in prison and deportation for a consensual same-sex sexual relationship with a Filipino, who accused his partner of attempted murder. On August 28, the Dubai Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to six months.
2011 – A transgender waiter faced deportation after a sixth month prison sentence in 2011. He was convicted of “crossing dressing” and “enticing men to sin”.
A transgender woman was refused entry to the Emirates.
2008 – Police arrested 17 tourists for “homosexual behaviour” though they did not specify what this behaviour constituted.
2007 – Authorities threatened to charge 15 year old male victim of gang rape with homosexual acts. Eventually, the perpetrators were sentenced when it was disclosed that one of the men was HIV positive.
2005 – 26 men were arrested for attending a “gay wedding party”. Eleven were imprisoned for 6 years. All were “encouraged” to accept hormone treatment in exchange for a shorter sentence.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE’S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
In 2005, Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri, Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Auqaf (Endowments) was reported as saying: “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”.
Public attitudes towards homosexuality and gender identity reflect traditional Muslim values. Under Islamic law liwat, homosexual acts between men and musahaqa, homosexual acts between women are criminalized.
Articles in local news which discuss the “worrying trend” of homosexuality and cross dressing “boyat” (tomboys, cross-dressing women and transsexuals) in schools show that LGBTI Emiratis are distrusted on a cultural as well as a religious level: homosexuals are seen as either delinquents or weak corrupted victims. In 2011, authorities initiated a campaign to highlight the illegality of boyat. The director of the criminal awareness department in Dubai stated that warnings needed to be set for such activities with clear punishments put in place.
Homosexual desire is believed to result from a physical or mental health problem for which “treatment” is strongly encouraged. At times, the government has subjected persons to compulsory psychological treatment for homosexual activity. According to Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council, doctors have been known to administer torturous forensic anal exams to “prove” male suspects’ homosexuality.
In 2012, UAE filmmakers produced a “gay-cure” video in Arabic in which two straight men teach their gay friend to be more masculine. The director stated that it was intended to be a “simple and funny way to show how gays can be changed to men”. The video was met with mixed responses in the UAE. UAE rights activists who spoke out against it did not wish to be named. The video was subsequently removed and an article about the removal of the video was retweeted by influential figures within the UAE.
Homosexual and transgender “suspects” are often arrested on accusations of prostitution, particularly since there seems to be a high demand for transgender sex-workers in the country.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
LGBT Rights UAE
LGBT Rights UAE is a non-governmental organization that strives to raise awareness about the issues that face the LGBT Community in the UAE. Their mission is to raise awareness, educate the public and allow open dialogue about the Universal Rights that belong to the LGBT community of the United Arab Emirates. Their mission is to also advocate for decriminalizing homosexuality, same sex relationships, or sexual activity between consenting individuals of the same sex or otherwise.
They have Facebook, Twitter and Youtube pages where they post news stories and information relevant to the LGBT communityin the UAE.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
Dr Shaul Gabbay
Dr Shaul Gabbay is Senior Research Associate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, USA. He has published extensively on cultures and customs in Islam. He is a recognized authority on persecution issues based on family dishonor, gender and homosexuality, and sociology and politics of the Muslim world. Known for his diligent research and ability to clearly explain complicated issues, his testimony has been recognized as a pivotal turning point in successful asylum cases.
Researched by: Alice Crocker