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LGBT rights in United Arab Emirates
StatusIllegal: Prosecution only on complaint of husband or (male) legal guardian [1] [2]
Penalty
  • Max: no upper limit, sentence at courts' discretion
  • Min.: 6 months' imprisonment [1] [3]
Gender identityNo
MilitaryNo
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex relationships
AdoptionNo

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the United Arab Emirates face discrimination and legal challenges. Homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and under the federal criminal provisions, consensual same-sex sexual activity is punishable by imprisonment; extra-marital sexual activity between persons of different sexes is also illegal. In both cases, prosecution will only be brought if a husband or male guardian of one of the participants makes a criminal complaint. The penalty is a minimum of six months imprisonment; no maximum penalty is prescribed, and the court has full discretion to impose any sentence in accordance with the country's constitution.

While there have been no known arrests or prosecutions for same-sex sexual activity in the UAE since at least 2015 (as of 2022), with no upper limit to penalties codified, capital punishment is a theoretical outcome for (married) participants. Any penalty imposed is suspended if the complainant withdraws the complaint or "forgives" the transgressor. [1] [4] [5]

Additionally, individuals have been prosecuted for offences related to sexual and gender identity under public decency laws, for acts such as kissing in public, or for cross-dressing. [4] [6]

Legal framework and history

The UAE's Federal Penal Code does not replace the legal system of each emirate, [7] unless it is contrary to the federal law. Persons may be charged under the Federal Penal Code, or under a local (emirate) penal code. [8]

Adherence of the country's legal and justice system to sharia [a] allows for capital punishment as a legal penalty for some crimes. Same-sex sexual activity— as with other sex acts by married persons outside marriage — are in the category of crimes notionally liable to capital punishment in the United Arab Emirates, under zina provisions, at least prior to amendments contained in the new 2021 Federal Crime and Punishment Law. Despite this, there are no known instances of imposition of the death penalty, or sentences to life in prison, for such offences. [5] [b]

Enforcement history

According to the British non-profit, Human Dignity Trust, as of 2020, all annual human rights reports from the U.S. Department of State on UAE after 2015, [10] have stated there are no records of arrests or prosecutions for same-sex sexual activity in the country. [4]

Involuntary medical and psychological "treatments", including administration of hormonal therapies, and detention for forced psychological treatments, [11] have occurred. There have been reports of mistreatment in detention such as beatings, [12] and forced rectal examinations, [13]: 479  amounting to torture, [12] [14] have been consequences of such suspected or established same-sex sexual conduct.

Legal status

In January 2022, a new 2021 Federal Crime and Punishment Law came into force, reinstituting some provisions of personal relationship law that had been removed by amendments in 2020. Retained from the 2020 amendment is the requirement that criminal proceedings for non-marital sexual conduct are only instigated at the behest of (male) spouses or guardians, rather than police or other state authorities. [1] [15]

The law against "voluntary debasement", variously rendered in English as 'indecent assault', 'indecency', or 'carnal knowledge' [6]: 82  may be enforced against consensual same-sex (and heterosexual, if outside marriage [16] [17] [18]) activities. [12] Since 2022, this provision, Article 356, is only invoked upon the complaint of the husband or male guardian of a participant in same-sex or extramarital sexual conduct. [3] If criminal proceedings are instigated in this way, the minimum penalty that may be imposed upon conviction is a six months' term of imprisonment. There is no maximum penalty prescribed, so that judges may sentence offenders to any penalty allowable under the constitution. The effect of the 2021 amendment which updated Article 1 to: "The provisions of the Islamic Shari’a shall apply to the retribution and blood money crimes. Other crimes and their respective punishments shall be provided for in accordance with the provisions of this Law and other applicable penal codes", is as yet unclear. [1] [9] Before the amendment, penalties under Article 356 were imprisonment for at least one year and up to fifteen years. Until 2020, criminal prosecution could proceed without the spouse or guardian filing a complaint. [12]: 138, 202 

The U.S. Department of State's 2022 report states: [19]

Both civil law and sharia criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The penalty for individuals who engage in "consensual sodomy with a man is a minimum prison sentence of six months" if a complaint is filed by the partner or the guardian. There were no known reports of arrests or prosecutions for consensual same-sex sexual conduct.

— U.S. Department of State, 2022 Report on Human Rights Practices: United Arab Emirates, p. 34

Abu Dhabi

Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable by imprisonment of up to 14 years. [20] Cross-dressing is likewise illegal. [21]

Enforcement cases

In 2005, 26 young men were arrested when Abu Dhabi Police raided a social gathering at a hotel in a desert resort town. The police alleged the men were found engaging in cross-dressing and preparing to celebrate a "gay wedding". [22] 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". [23] Initial reports suggested that some of the men were ordered to accept hormone "treatments" in exchange for lighter sentences, although the government subsequently backed off from these statements.[ citation needed] Twelve of the men were found guilty and sentenced; eleven were given a five-year prison sentence, and one a one-year sentence. The eleven had reportedly confessed to "homosexual practices". The remaining fourteen were released after being found not guilty. [8] [22]

On 9 August 2017, Emirati police in Abu Dhabi detained two Singaporean nationals in a shopping mall. A court convicted and sentenced them to one year in prison "for attempting to resemble women". The UAE deported them on 28 August after they spent nearly three weeks in custody, much of that time in a cell they said was designated for "effeminate" people. [24]

Dubai

Article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years for consensual sodomy. The most common depictions in the local media of LGBT people involve foreigners, disease, and sex crimes such as rape. [25]

In June 2023, Steps refused to do a show in Dubai over a contract clause that barred them to disclose their sexuality, since homosexuality is illegal in the UAE. A band member, Ian "H" Watkinssaid at some stage of life morals are more important than "pot of gold gig", and that it was “important” to raise the issue. [26]

Incidents and enforcement

In July 2007, [27] a case involved the kidnapping and rape of a sixteen-year-old French-Swiss boy by a group of men. [28] The boy stated in a closed court session that after leaving an arcade, he saw a 17-year-old acquaintance who offered to drive him home, after entering the car and driving past his home, the three men raped him. [27] [29] 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. [28] His mother accused the UAE authorities of not notifying her family that one of the rapists was HIV-positive, thus delaying the seeking of medical attention for her son. [29] No formal charges were brought against the teenager who testified against his rapists. The story generated international media attention with government representatives defending the criminal laws against homosexuality, saying: "This is a conservative society. Homosexuality, conducted homosexuality is an illegal act. And we are not ashamed of that". [30] The boy was also awarded AED 15 million (US$4 million) in civil compensation. [31]

The legal and social sanctions against LGBT people mean that no formal LGBT organizations or nightclubs exist in Dubai. A nightclub sponsored a special night for the LGBT community, only to be shut down by the government. [32]

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 were deported following their prison terms. [33] 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. [34] On 21 March 2012, police raided and broke up a gay party consisting of 30 men. [35] On 7 June 2012, a Belgian man admitted to police that he was in a homosexual relationship with a Filipino. He was arrested and jailed for a year to be followed by deportation. [36]

In December 2013, Karen Mke and Kamilla Satto, two transgender women from Brazil, were arrested in Dubai for "imitating women" after calling the police due to prejudices they witnessed in the nightclub. [37] After learning the two were transgender, they were arrested and the two were reportedly detained for two days without explanation. [37] The women were not allowed to leave Dubai, and faced criminal charges. [38] The two were held until March 2014 and were fined AED 10,000 (US$2722.50) and ordered to be deported.

Canadian YouTuber and model Gigi Gorgeous, who is a transgender woman, was detained for five hours at Dubai International Airport in August 2016 due to authorities not recognizing her gender as legitimate. Her passport was confiscated during her detention. After being released from detention, she departed immediately for Sweden. [39]

In October 2017, a Scottish man from Stirling faced a three-year jail sentence after putting his hand on a man in a bar so as to not "bump and spill drinks". The tourist was arrested for public indecency after touching the other man's hip. [40] The charges of public indecency were dropped following the intervention of the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. [41]

Gender identity and expression

Sex reassignment surgery is severely restricted to limited circumstances which are highly regulated by the state. [42] [43] [5]

Historically, crossdressing has been illegal for men deemed to be dressing as women in any context; however, since November 2020 only men who enter places designated for women while "disguised as a woman" may be prosecuted. Such actions are punishable by a prison sentence of up to a year and a fine of DH 100,000. [5] Before the legal change, the penal code criminalized the wearing of clothes deemed "inapproriate for one's sex" in any circumstances. [44]

Gay conversion practices are not prohibited or discouraged by any law or regulation. [45]

Living conditions

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society's view on homosexuality, how they are treated by other people and how satisfied they are with their lives. The UAE was ranked 85th with a GHI score of 37. [46]

No LGBTQI+ support or advocacy organizations operate openly in the country. Social attitudes towards homosexuality and varied gender expression, together with the likelihood of state repression, prevents the establishment of such organisations or community education on related issues. [5] [11]

Antidiscrimination

There are no protections under any UAE law or policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. [5]

Censorship

The Government in the United Arab Emirates has restricted access to various websites and monitors chat rooms, instant messages and blogs. There were only a few reports of prosecutions and punishments but many people on the internet have been censored their conversations and identity in gay chat rooms. The country's only internet service provider has a proxy server which blocks any website that goes against the country's moral values. Sites regarding dating or marriage, LGBT issues, the Bahá’í Faith or sites related to unblocking the censorship are all inaccessible. Some reports or sites related to unblocking the censorship are all inaccessible. Reports even suggest that any site with the word gay or sex is blocked. [47]

The UAE's Media Regulatory Office banned the screening of Pixar's Lightyear in cinemas in June 2022, stating that the movie violated the Emirates' media content standards. The movie was opposed for depicting a same-sex relationship. [48] Later that month, Majid, a popular Arabic-language comic book series for children, came under investigation by the UAE authorities for allegedly promoting homosexuality. The magazine withdrew its May 2022 edition, which depicted a multi-colored character. In one dialogue the character said, "Amazing, I have the capability to colour things ... Ali will wish to become like me." According to The New Arab, [49] a number of social media users had complained that Majid had intentionally used the Arabic word مثلي (mithli) in this character's speech, a word which means both a "homosexual" and "like me". [50]

In June 2023, the UAE banned Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, a week ahead of its expected release in the region. The movie failed to pass the Emirates' censorship requirements, due to a scene that depicted a glimpse of a transgender flag displaying the words "Protect Trans Lives". [51] Also in June 2023, the Amazon company complied with the Emirati government's requirement to impose restrictions on its product listings and site-search capabilities. Under threat of penalties to the company, Amazon blocked search results for 150 terms on its UAE site, according to the New York Times. Input terms such as lgbtq, pride, and closeted gay return "no results" when used on Amazon in the UAE. Individual item listings were also removed; for example, the work Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay, amongst other book titles. [52]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal No Illegal: Prosecution only at behest of husband or male guardian; any penalty will be waived with permission of complainant [53]

(Penalty: Maximum sentence not determined—it is at discretion of the court; the minimum sentence is 6 months imprisonment [1])

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
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No Adoption not legal for anyone of whatever gender or sexual orientation [54]
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No Adoption is not a legal option for any couple within UAE, in accordance with Islamic law [54] [55]
LGBT history education allowed No Illegal: reference to same-sex relationships or related matters is forbidden. [56]
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Conversion therapy illegal No
Access to IVF for lesbians No Only a woman and a man married to each other may conceive using IVF. Fertility treatments using donor sperm or ova are disallowed for everyone, including married heterosexual couples [57]
Access to gender identity treatment for minors with gender dysphoria No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No Surrogacy is not legal for anyone, including married heterosexual couples [57]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No [58][ better source needed]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Article one of the Federal Penal Code was amended in 2020 to state "The provisions of the Islamic Shari’a shall apply to the retribution and blood money crimes. Other crimes and their respective punishments shall be provided for in accordance with the provisions of this Law and other applicable penal codes." [9]
  2. ^ No known instances of imposition of the death penalty, or sentences to life in prison have occurred, even under earlier versions of the law, according to Amnesty International, the ILGA, and the U.S. Department of State, whose 2021 report states: [5]

    Both civil law and sharia criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Under sharia individuals ... could be subject to the death penalty. Dubai's penal code allows for up to a 10-year prison sentence for conviction of such activity, while Abu Dhabi's penal code allows for up to a 14-year prison sentence. There were no known reports of arrests or prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct [in 2021].

    — U.S. Department of State, 2021 Report on Human Rights Practices: United Arab Emirates, pp. 35–36

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "UAE: Sweeping Legal 'Reforms' Deepen Repression". Human Rights Watch. 5 June 2022. Retrieved 21 June 2023. Under the 2021 law, if men and women have sex outside of marriage, the act carries a penalty of no less than six months' imprisonment. Sodomy with an adult male is also criminalized under the law. In both cases, the offenses can only be prosecuted on the basis of a complaint by a husband or male guardian. ... The law disproportionately affects women as it only allows men to complain about and forgive extramarital sex, and provides for only a minimum sentence allowing judges' discretion to provide harsher sentences.
  2. ^ "UAE: Greater Progress Needed on Women's Rights". Human Rights Watch. 4 March 2021. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
  3. ^ a b Staff reporter. "New UAE law: Reform eases restrictions on extra-marital relationships from January 2". Khaleej Times. Retrieved 25 July 2023. In all cases, the husband or guardian has the right to waive the complaint, and the waiver entails the expiration of the criminal case or the suspension of the execution of the penalty, as the case may be.
  4. ^ a b c "United Arab Emirates: Criminalisation - Enforcement 2020". humandignitytrust.org. Human Dignity Trust. 13 February 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2021). "Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses". 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: United Arab Emirates (Report). United States Department of State. The law permits doctors to conduct sex reassignment surgery when there are "psychological" and "physiological" signs of gender and sex disparity. The penalty for performing an unwarranted "sex correction" surgery is three to 10 years in prison." ... "In November 2020 the penal code dropped a clause criminalizing wearing clothing deemed inappropriate for one's sex. The law now criminalizes only men who enter a place designated for women while disguised as a woman. The punishment for this infraction is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to DH 100,000 ( US$27,250). PDF download
  6. ^ a b ILGA World; Lucas Ramón Mendos; Kellyn Botha; Rafael Carrano Lelis; Enrique López de la Peña; Ilia Savelev; Daron Tan (14 December 2020). State-Sponsored Homophobia report: 2020 global legislation overview update (PDF) (Report) (14th revised ed.). Geneva: ILGA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2020. Even so, to date there are no records that this penalty has been imposed on LGBT persons ...
  7. ^ Amnesty International, ed. (4 July 2008). "Appendix 1: The Application of the Death Penalty for Consensual Same-sex Sexual Relations". Love, hate and the law: decriminalizing homosexuality (Report). pp. 46–49. Index Number: POL 30/003/2008. NOTE ON THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

    "The United Arab Emirates (UAE) does not carry the death penalty for same-sex consensual sexual relations.

    "The UAE is a federal system ... based in Abu Dhabi. Article 354 of the Penal Code 'Union law No. 3 of 1987' (Qanoun al-'Uqoubat) provides for the death penalty in a context of force, or coercion, whereby a male or female forces another female or a male coerces another male to take part in the sexual act: Amnesty International therefore considers this article to address rape, not consensual same-sex sexual relations.

    "As in other nearby countries, it is theoretically possible that zina (a sexual act by a married party outside of marriage) is punishable by death and that these could be used to prosecute consensual same-sex sexual acts, depending on the facts of the cases. Amnesty International is not aware of any case in which the use of zina laws against consensual same-sex sexual conduct has resulted in a death sentence in the UAE.
  8. ^ a b "Sodomylaws.org". Sodomylaws.org. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Federal Decree Law No. (15) of 2020". Ministry of Justice. 27 September 2020. Pages 1, Article 1 "The provisions of the Islamic Shari’a shall apply to the retribution and blood money crimes. Other crimes and their respective punishments shall be provided for in accordance with the provisions of this Law and other applicable penal codes". Archived from the original on 31 May 2023. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
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  11. ^ a b Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (2011). 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: United Arab Emirates (PDF) (Report). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
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  19. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2023). "Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses". 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: United Arab Emirates (Report). United States Department of State. Both civil law and sharia criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The penalty for individuals who engage in 'consensual sodomy with a man is a minimum prison sentence of six months' if a complaint is filed by the partner or the guardian. There were no known reports of arrests or prosecutions for consensual same-sex sexual conduct. PDF download
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  21. ^ "UAE jails Singapore pair for wearing women's clothes". BBC News. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  22. ^ a b "'Gay wedding' ends up in cells". News24. 24 February 2006. Archived from the original on 24 February 2006.
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  34. ^ Littauer, Dan (12 April 2012). "Dubai: British man jailed for three years for public gay sex". PinkNews. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  35. ^ Littauer, Dan (21 March 2012). "Dubai Police Chief Denies Reports of Gay Arrests". Huffington Post. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  36. ^ Coleman, Aaron (6 June 2012). "Man in Dubai Gets 1 Year in Prison for Gay Relationship". queerty.com. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  37. ^ a b Molloy, Parker Marie (24 January 2014). "Brazilian Trans Women Detained in Dubai for 'Imitating Women'". advocate.com. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  38. ^ Littauer, Dan (23 January 2014). "Brazil transgender women accosted, detained in Dubai for 'imitating women'". LGBTQ Nation.
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  48. ^ Ives, Mike (15 June 2022). "Disney's 'Lightyear', With a Same-Sex Kiss, Faces a Backlash in Some Muslim Countries". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 August 2022. Retrieved 15 June 2022.
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  54. ^ a b {{multiref2|1= "Child Adoption Process in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah (UAE)". Bin Eid Advocates and Legal Consultants. 23 November 2022. [Commerical website].|2= "Everything you need to know about Child Adoption in the UAE". Fotis International Law. n.d. [Commerical website].
  55. ^ "A Guide to Adoption in Dubai and UAE". Expat Woman. 17 April 2019.
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  57. ^ a b Inhorn, Marcia C. (June 2016). "Cosmopolitan conceptions in global Dubai? The emiratization of IVF and its consequences". Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online. 2: 24–31. doi: 10.1016/j.rbms.2016.04.004. PMC  5991884. PMID  29892713.
  58. ^ "Blood donations by MSMs by country". Equaldex. 2023.[ better source needed]

Further reading

External links