A Message of Hope and Change From the Emirates on IDAHO


By Dan Littauer

Members of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender group commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) with a message of hope and appeal for dialogue and change.

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates who each have different harsh laws regarding homosexuality, from up to 10 years in prison in Dubai to 14 in Abu-Dhabi, while Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code may even prescribe a death sentence for ‘consensual sodomy.’ Punishment for homosexuality may range from harsh imprisonment, fines, deportation, flogging and death.

Public displays of affection are also illegal and can carry harsh sentences such as several months in jail, fines and deportation for non Emirati residents. Many men and women find it difficult to meet even in private settings as same-sex acts are technically illegal even out of public sight, and families can often have very conservative views regarding homosexuality. Several recent reports have highlighted the issues of private settings.

Meanwhile psychologists and psychiatrists in the UAE regard being gay as a psychological disturbance that is, in some cases, to be ‘cured’ with hormonal ‘treatments,’ despite global clinical guidance to the contrary.

Abdalla, the chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender group, comments:

On the 17th of May 1990 the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from the international classification of diseases. Today is the international day against Homophobia and Transphobia, and I sincerely hope the Emirates medical and psychological associations will soon follow in the footsteps of the WHO.

I hope that LGBT people in the UAE will soon no longer will have to live in fear, I hope that in the near future there will be programs that protect the youth in school from being bullied, as I was but never really realised how bad it was until now, I hope that in time homosexuality will not be treated as a hormone imbalance, but rather a normal variation of love and sexuality, that isn’t shunned by society.

We are not sick, we are an integral part of society, we are migrant workers, we are policemen and women, we are teachers, we are men, women, transgeder, most of all we are the voice of our generation, and we want equality for everyone.

My main advice to the LGBT community in the UAE is “don’t lose hope! You are wonderful, and believe in your dignity, equality and right for freedom!”

I call upon Emirati society and leaders to give equality a chance and cherish diversity.

Another activist, Nasira, spoke passionately about her vision: “Days like IDAHO help to remind us all, not only the LGBT community, but every individual that basic human rights are still being fought for. LGBT rights are not special rights, they are Human rights! We will not be ignored and we will continue to fight for our basic human rights.”

She had this message to convey to LGBT people in the UAE and beyond: “Don’t despair, even if there is intolerance, believe in yourself and your basic human right to live your life openly, proudly and without fear of injustice.”


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Photo: Abdalla – “Freedom” Chair of the UAE LGBT Group


Kevin Cline
Past Member 5 years ago


RobynRobyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa5 years ago

Good luck to all the brave LGBTQ who are fighting for their rights. You are not alone people around the world stand with you.

Elizabeth Koenig
Elizabeth Koenig5 years ago

Good luck to the brave LGBT activists! Unfortunately, there are not only many places in the Muslim world were gay people are oppressed, imprisoned or even murdered--as with recent hangings in Iran--but even Imams in the West are preaching the killing of gay people. It's going to be an uphill battle.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender group is a group of courageous people whose sacrifices could include death; a daunting thought and one I hope does not occur for anyone. They are right to say this is not nor has it ever really been about LGBT rights, it is and will forever be about human rights as long as there are groups of people who are oppressed. I hope you all stay safe and are able to one day show those you love your whole self. Love and blessings to you all.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 5 years ago

Love to the LGBTQ people of the Emirates! They are amazing.

John Mansky
John Mansky5 years ago

Thank you for the article...

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher5 years ago

Good luck to IDAHOT. Any recognition is better than none.
Long term perspectives allow us to imagine worlds where being gay is not a crime.
Hope lives in each of us and conservatives are tomorrow's nobodies. Historically they are the greatest flip-flppers ever. Ask one if he's changed opinion ever, they'll answer of course not!
Some of course still believe in Apartheid and slavery, but today none admit so.
So the same applies already to homosexuality being a crime. Imams and bishops are tomorrow's nobodies.
Does anyone ask them their opinion anymore?

Christine C.
Chandra C5 years ago