Might want to rethink this one, guys.
The International Conference on Gender Identity and LGBT Rights is preparing to hold a conference in the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai, as OUT Traveler reports. On May 6-7, 2021, the organization will hold lectures, panels, and research reports on LGBTQ life and rights across the globe. The problem is, the United Arab Emirates is largely homophobic.
LGBTQ rights in the country are lacking, at best. Male gay sex and homosexuality in the country are illegal; there are no protections against employment discrimination, housing discrimination, or discrimination in general; and conversion therapy is not banned in the country. While cops don’t go out of their way to hunt down LGBTQ people, the anti-gay laws have yet to be changed. A man who is arrested for having gay sex could still face up to 14 years in prison.
According to the Human Rights Watch 2020 World Report, the UAE’s Article 356 of the federal penal code criminalizes “indecent assault.” Many of the country’s courts use this to convict people of having gay sex. The federal penal code also punishes “any male disguised in a female apparel and enters in this disguise a place reserved for women or where entry is forbidden, at that time, for other than women” with one year’s imprisonment, a fine of up to 10,000 dirhams (US$2,723), or both. This, of course, has led to the arrest of many transgender women.
But that’s not all, different emirates with the UAE have additional laws that criminalize gay sex. Abu Dhabi has a law against “unnatural sex with another person” and the Emirate of Dubai punishes consensual sodomy with up to 10 years in prison. And despite having no law against gender reassignment surgery, the Federal Appeals Court rejected a case filed by three trans men about legally changing their names and gender markers on official documents.
With all of this in mind, it’s a bewildering plan to hold the International Conference on Gender Identity and LGBT Rights in the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps conference organizers are hoping to spotlight LGBTQ rights in the country by discussing LGBTQ issues within it. After all, there is no law saying LGBTQ people cannot congregate in the county.
Plus, the organization states that its conferences are meant to “bring together leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects of gender identity and LGBT Rights. It also provides a premier interdisciplinary platform for researchers, practitioners and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns as well as practical challenges encountered and solutions adopted in the fields of Gender Identity and LGBT Rights.”
That said, we can’t help but wonder…. was this the right choice?