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Can I be Gay in Dubai?

Gay Kiss Dubai

As in every country, there are plenty of gay people in Dubai, it is more a question of how openly you can be gay in Dubai.

Dubai’s approach to diversity may be somewhat different from your home country. There are no LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) rights in any of the United Arab Emirates. Any form of sexual relations outside a heterosexual marriage is illegal. Married heterosexual couples are allowed to hold hands but cannot kiss in public. Knowledgeable expats in Dubai recommend that Gay couples should not even risk old hands in public.

“Whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male shall be punished by death.”

Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code

Although the last execution was a couple of years ago, it is worth remembering that death by stoning is your starting point. This means that the more usual punishments for being gay – beatings, prolonged imprisonment, floggings, torture, and chemical castration – would be considered to be getting off lightly.

It is not just Dubai, not even just the United Arab Emirates. This whole region seems to lack LGBT etiquette. For example, the regional group – similar to the European Union in Europe – is the Gulf Cooperative Countries. It includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Back in 2013 they discussed introducing some form of testing to prevent gay foreigners from entering any of those countries. They only dropped the proposal because they feared a controversy that might derail the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

So, no: not a gay-friendly region.

That does not mean, however, that you cannot have fun in Dubai. It merely means you have to be smart and remain aware of your surroundings.

There are no gay bars in Dubai, but you can rest assured that there is a high gay-quotient in every trendy bar. In particular, try Level 43 Sky Lounge at the top of the Four Points by Sheraton hotel. No one at any upscale bar will have a problem with two people of the same gender drinking together but, again, avoid any public displays of affection.

Of course, bars, hardly matter in this age of Grindr and other online ways to meet people. In any country, you need to be careful when you meet someone for the first time. In Dubai, there is the added complication that doing something illegal makes you vulnerable to scammers. Meet in public and make sure you trust someone before going anywhere with them.

Be particularly careful if it is someone from an impoverished country, no matter how cute they are. “Honeytrap” scams are prevalent in Dubai. Be aware, also, that the Dubai police active on Grindr. Bonus points if you can top one of them.

Legally, only a married heterosexual couple can stay in the same hotel room. Gay marriage is not recognized in Dubai, no matter how married you may be in your home country. You almost certainly will not be able to bring some random guy up to your room.

Lesbians may have more luck as, throughout the Islamic world, it is commonly believed that they do not exist. Even so, public displays of affection, such as kissing on a beach, may result in one month of imprisonment followed by deportation. Sadly, this regularly happens.

In some ways, Dubai is more moderate than other jurisdictions in the region. For example, it is now routine for Western artists performing in Dubai to display rainbow flags during their concerts. So far, none of them have been arrested or banned from the country for this.

In Eygpt, on the other hand, the police stormed into a concert in 2017 and arrested 70 fans caught holding rainbow flags. Ironically, being sent to prison in Eygpt only results in more gay sex.

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