As long as there have been living organisms with any modicum of intelligence, there has existed prejudice. This division that we human draw amongst ourselves in society are based on a variety of characteristics. Depending on the part of the world we live in, sometimes it is based on level of income, color of our skin or bloodlines we descend from. We are now well into the 21st century and have managed to find yet a new way to draw lines of division: preferences pertaining to sexuality.
LGBT communities and prejudice
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community have been facing many of the same persecutions as all other minority groups at the mercy of society. However, many of the westerns nations have made great strides in affording this community of people the same civil rights as there heterosexual counterparts. For example, the Unites States of America has legalized gay marriage; this allows two people of the same sex to marry and live as a married couple, unlike in previous cases when these people were only allowed to enter into ‘civil unions’ which was meant only as a ritual and could not be claimed legally (Stein & Terkel 2014). Another example of progress is the Gender Recognition Act that was passed by the U.K. in 2004; this allows for an individual that has undergone a sex change operation to legally claim their new gender and receive all new documentations (i.e., birth certificate, drivers’ license, etc.) (Gender Recognition Act 2004).
Even with civilities in place, the LGBT community still constantly faces hardships in many countries. So the logic then follows that if life is so difficult for members of this community where they have legal rights, what must be the quality of life for those that live in countries where their very existence is considered sinful, offensive and punishable by law?
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a prime example of a country that is oppressive and intolerant towards the LGBT community and the UAE has been consistently cited for human rights violations against men, women, children, and foreigners (IFEX 2013). The country’s laws and legislation is strongly based upon Sharia Law, which is defined as the laws belonging to the Islamic religion (Coulson 2014). These laws govern a wide variety of matters including, but not limited to, diet, prayer, and criminal behavior (Coulson 2014). Within the category of criminal behavior, LGBT people will find that they are condemned.
Laws & penal codes
Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code states, “Whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male shall be punished by death” (UAE Laws 2012). It has generally been observed in recent years that LGBT people have not been sentenced to death, but instead, to jail time, and possible deportation depending on status of the individual (see Note below). Because the penal code is written in Arabic, there is some ambiguity as to exactly what it translates to and unfortunately leaves much to the discretion of the person translating the law. Below are some interpretations of the laws, specific to two of the more popular emirates— Abu Dhabi and Dubai:
- Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code outlaws ‘personal intercourse contrary to nature’ and violations can lead up to fourteen years in jail (UAE Laws 2012). This again leaves much to the discretion of the reader of this law as what is considered “nature” which may differ according to the country, religion or culture the reader hails from.
- Dubai, a popular tourist attraction, inevitably has an increasing number of tourists who are homosexual; regardless of the tourist’s home country laws, such tourists will be punished if caught actively engaging in sexual activity. Article 177 of the Dubai Penal Code forbids consensual sodomy and is punishable with up to ten years in jail (UAE Laws 2012). In order to combat the influence of the outside cultures and homosexuality, Dubai media frequently illustrates LGBT people as being of foreign origins and associates homosexuality to disease and crime (see Note below). As a direct result of legal and social rejection of homosexuality, LGBT communities have little to no support of any kind. It is difficult and dangerous to attempt to have LGBT organizations and social activities.
Future of LGBT in UAE
On September 26, 2014, UAE was one of several nations that voted against a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that prevented LGBT violence and discrimination (Human Rights Council 2014). This is a country with leaders that have clearly spoken against homosexuality and are unwilling to change their stance on the matter. Islamic courts run parallel to civil and criminal court in the UAE, which means religion plays a significant role in the way the country is run. In a country with numerous human right violations against all manner of people, it is difficult to expect that LGBT people will be given any kind of serious consideration or rights (IFEX 2013). What a country is willing to do for its citizen speaks volumes to what the quality of life will be like in the future. The UAE has not reached a level of tolerance as many of the western nations have, so it logically follows that LGBT rights are not quite on the horizon just yet.
Note: UAE is particular about what it allows its citizens to post online or report in the news. Direct sources from within the country were very difficult to ascertain since the government considers any criticism or negative comment criminal and punishable. This article is based on reliable sources, including the United Nations but also on less reliable second hand sources that provide a rich source of information.
- Crocker, A 2012, United Arab Emirates LGBTI Resources, Refugee Legal Air Information. Available from: <http://www.refugeelegalaidinformation.org/united-arab-emirates-lgbti-resources>. [21 December 2014].
- Gender Recognition Act 2004, The National Archives, Available from: <http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/7>. [21 December 2014].
- Human Rights Council 2014, Human Rights Council adopts resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity and concludes twenty-seventh session, 26 September 2014 United Nations Human Rights. Available from: <http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15109&LangID=E>. [21 December 2014].
- IFEX 2013, Human rights violations in the UAE spotlighted at the UN, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 31 January 2013 Available from: <http://www.ifex.org/united_arab_emirates/2013/01/31/upr_rights_violations/>. [21 December 2014].
- Coulson, NJ 2014, Sharia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Available from: <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/538793/Shariah>. [21 December 2014].
- Stein, S & Terkel, A 2014, 60 percent of Americans soon will live in states with marriage equality, The Huffington Post, 10 June 2014 Available from: <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/06/gay-marriage-states_n_5939440.html?ir=India>. [21 December 2014].
- UAE Laws 2012, UAE Legislation in English, Arab Laws Online, Available from: <http://www.arablawsworld.com/uae-laws-in-english.php>. [21 December 2014].