LGBT rights in United Arab Emirates

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LGBT rights in United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal: Islamic Sharia Law may be applied
Death penalty
Capital punishment to prison time; deportation for foreigners.
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Discrimination protections None

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 and punishments range from jail time, fines, deportation, and the death penalty.

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.

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 [1]. 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,” [2]. 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 [3]. The men were all given a five year prison sentence [4].


Article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy. Sexual orientation and gender identity remain taboo topics, with the most common depiction in the local media of LGBT people involving foreigners, disease and sex crimes such as rape.

One such case involved the kidnapping and rape of a sixteen year old French Swiss boy [5]. 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 [6].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 [7].

In 2008 two women tourists were given a one-month jail sentence and then deported for engaging in public displays of affection while visiting a beach [8]. 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 [9].

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 dj transvestite, only to be shut down by the government [10].

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External links


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