UAE criticised for its conservative gender laws after two Singaporeans jailed for 'dressing too feminine'
Human rights organisations have raised concerns after two Singaporean nationals were sentenced to one year in prison on Monday after being charged with "violating the UAE's laws around gender and sexuality."
The two – one who identifies as a man, and the other as pre-operative transgender woman, but whose passport still refers to her as male – were arrested and subsequently charged for “looking feminine”, whilst taking part in a photo shoot in a Dubai shopping mall.
Homosexuality, transgenderism, and cross dressing are illegal in the UAE, and punishable with prison terms.
However, it is reported that the Singaporean nationals were unaware of these laws on entering the country.
The move has been condemned by human rights organisations globally.
"This yet another example of foreign nationals being detained in the UAE for crimes they weren't previously aware existed," the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE told The New Arab.
"There have been numerous cases this year where unsuspecting tourists have been caught unaware by the countries conservative gender laws."
British citizen and UAE torture survivor David Haigh argued that from the perspective of foreign nationals in the UAE, this particular law is unclear.
“Dubai has a significant gay and transgender community, including many overtly gay bars and clubs," Haigh said.
"Understandably, this leads the tourist or business-person to believe homosexuality and transgenderism are acceptable."
However, homosexuality and transgenderism are serious criminal offences, which will mean a lengthy jail term.
Haigh stated that “the UAE needs to be clear on what the law is and apply that law consistently.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai has highlighted the hypocrisy of the Abu Dhabi in its crackdowns.
"The UAE has built a tolerant, cosmopolitan image, but the laws continue to reflect the conservative, traditional values of the society. It is not uncommon for visitors to be confused about what is or is not acceptable behaviour," she said.