With its glitz and glamor, the United Arab Emirates truly is a wonder of the modern world. The capital, Dubai, offers a remarkable modern infrastructure that appeals to visitors from across the globe year-round. Yet what about LGBTQ rights in the UAE? Is Dubai safe for gay and lesbian travelers? With caution and discretion, it can be. But is homosexuality legal in the Emirates? It most certainly is not. In fact, ‘sodomy’, as it is classified in the legal code, is punishable by the death penalty under Sharia law. We should add that to the knowledge of the international community, the death penalty has not yet been applied for cases of same-sex sexual acts. According to Equaldex (a collaborative knowledge base for the LGBT community providing a global view of the LGBT rights movement), the United Arab Emirates has no legal protections for LGBTQ people in terms of discrimination in employment or housing either, creating a bleak and challenging reality for the local community.
While the lack of LGBTQ rights in Dubai and the other Emirates is appalling by European standards, it is depressingly similar to the political and social situations in many neighboring Arab nations, such as Oman or Qatar. There are truly zero gay rights in Dubai, with anyone found “guilty” of homosexual activity being arrested. Many LGBTQ foreigners have been arrested, jailed for months or even years, and then deported. Trans rights in Dubai are also nonexistent, with multiple foreigners having been jailed and deported for illegally “imitating” members of the “opposite” gender. It comes as no surprise then that surgery for sexual realignment is also illegal.
The history of gay rights in Dubai is bleak. There have never been any legal protections for LGTBQ people, and the government has always taken an active role in persecution. In 2013, the United Arab Emirates, along with other Gulf countries, considered banning gay and lesbian travelers from entering their countries. They refrained from instituting this oppressive measure only out of concern for the lucrative international soccer tournaments taking place within their borders. Nevertheless, Spartacus’ latest gay travel index reports that the United Arab Emirates has a general rating of -11 when it comes to LGBTQ rights, with zero protections in any sphere, along with persecutions, anti-gay laws, and a strong religious influence.
Yet even with the absence of LGBTQ rights in Dubai, you might wonder, practically speaking, “is Dubai safe for LGBTQ travelers?” While it is far from a gay-friendly place, it can be safe if extreme caution is exercised. Public displays of affection should be avoided, and you should certainly not openly admit in public to being LGBTQ. But, with proper discretion, you can find gay members of the expat community. There are no gay bars, but certain bars with foreign clienteles can be described as gay-friendly. So is there a “gay area Dubai?” No, certainly not. But there is an underground gay scene to be carefully discovered. And is Dubai safe for gay and lesbian travelers? With caution, yes it is.
That said, the United Arab Emirates is a country where homosexuality is kept entirely underground. This means that there is no history of Pride events or outright political manifestations. Any such events would be swiftly broken up and participants promptly arrested.
So while the lack of gay rights in Dubai is a major concern and represents a shocking reality for the world today, the answer to the question, “is Dubai safe for LGBTQ travelers?” remains a qualified “yes.” But the complicated situation does require extreme caution. By booking with misterb&b, you ensure a safe and welcoming environment for your accommodations, and in a place with such a lack of LGBTQ rights, this is all the more vital.