LGBT banned from UAE schools causes concern amongst community who see it as Dubai cracking down on 'under the radar' behaviour.
Members of the LGBTQ community have long lived “under the radar” in Dubai, believing that authorities turn a blind eye generally and that what happens in private will not be prosecuted. It is understood that holding hands in public or any sort of overt display will render them subject to criminal sanction but they feel confident to attend undercover gay nightclubs and engage in prohibited activity in private.
“It is risky to live in a country under these circumstances and the community is blasé about the threat they face, largely due to social media. It’s easy to be persuaded that Dubai doesn’t enforce existing laws but that simply isn’t the case. The laws are arbitrarily enforced which makes the city even more of a trap. Gay visitors and expats are overconfident in a country where breaking the law can lead to death or imprisonment”, says Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai.
“I am surprised to see the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), reporting that only 21 people in the UAE were prosecuted for this between 2004 and 2021. It is impossible for ILGA to have this information since the UAE does not share this. These numbers must only represent people who have deliberately contacted this organisation. I know it doesn’t include the many clients we have helped over the past 15 years.
“We have seen a number of visitors arrested for alleged cross-dressing (skinny jeans or similar) as well as sharing a hotel room with someone of the same sex. An Australian man who reported an assault and robbery was jailed for years for having the assailants in his room in the first place. Outrageously, a teenage male rape victim was jailed for sodomy. Figures like ILGA provided would be sufficient to lure LGBTQ members to a jurisdiction where they could easily face prison. The community would do better to boycott the region unless and until corporate interests push changes to the law”.
The UAE has doubled down on their rejection of woke culture and the community wonders if it is as safe as they thought after all.
One of the most recent moves was by the UAE's Ministry of Education which approved an updated code of conduct for education professionals during the first week of September. One of the tenets in the new framework explicitly prohibits "discussing gender identity, homosexuality or any other behavior deemed unacceptable to the UAE's society" in class.
“It is not, and should not be, surprising that the UAE prohibits the teaching of a lifestyle that is itself prohibited by law," she told DW. "The UAE is interested in liberalisation in certain areas but they have to weigh this against public opinions and they cannot tolerate actions that incite a backlash” Stirling added.
“The prohibition of homosexuality has caused stress and hardship for employees who are requested to transfer to the UAE, especially for those in the aviation sector. People in these positions are often not overt about their sexuality. They don’t want to tell their employer about their sexuality but equally don’t want to be stationed in a country where they are criminalised. It is foreseeable that multinationals and airlines will encourage Gulf nations to relax laws for foreigners in this regard but the local population overall will not support this move. They see the West’s constant woke arguments as truly ridiculous and will not want to invite the same culture to the Gulf. Banning gender discussion in the classroom is indicative of that.
“In the meantime, members of the LGBTQ community should rethink whether they wish to visit or live in a country where their own choices are criminal and could result in lengthy prison sentences”.
Situation in UAE increasingly worrying for international LGBTQ community | Middle East | News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 27.09.2022
Up until now, international members of the LGBTQ community living in the United Arab Emirates have managed to keep a low profile in a country where being queer is illegal. But is that all about to change?