Two men ‘spotted’ fondling each other in a parked car near a beach in Jumeirah, Dubai were sentenced to three months prison to be followed by deportation, reported the National, an Emirates based daily yesterday (15 May).
The two, a salon receptionist 27-year-old Filipino named by the initials 'RS', and a 32-year-old Omani named by the initials AA, were arrested by the police just after 3am on 9 April following a tip off from a member of the public.
A 48-year-old Emirati mentioned by the initials 'AK' told the National she was 'suspicious' of a car parked in front of her house by the beach.
‘When the driver saw me he moved his car next to our neighbor's boat,' she recounted.
She then sneaked up on the car to get a closer look, using nearby trees as cover, but the driver spotted her again and moved the vehicle once more.
'I felt suspicious and called the police,' said the woman.
RS and AA had known each other for about five months after meeting on the internet. According to RS they drove around in the Omani's Camry after which AA decided to teach him how to drive.
‘He tried to kiss me on the cheek but I stopped him because we were in a public place,’ RS told the prosecutors, admitting that were they in a private place, he would not have hesitated to have sex with him.
AA, however, claimed RS initiated the sexual contact, although admitting he desired it, by attempting to touch his genitals but he pushed him away ‘because I was scared he would be HIV positive,' he said.
RS was reported to have masturbated but was shocked to see AK, the Emirati woman, 'staring at him, through the car window.'
Experts note that the report by the National seems contradictory as the journalist claims initially the men were 'spotted fondling' and yet goes on to quote evidence that fails to attest to that.
The United Arab Emirates has a strict code of conduct about public displays of affection, dress and sexual conduct between unmarried couples.
Speaking with Gay Star News members of the United Arab Emirates Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (UAE LGBT) group made several comments. They are quoted using pseudonumys for reasons of personal safety.
Nasira clarified: ‘Whilst its unfortunate that acts of a sexual nature follow jail terms rather than heavy penalty's or warnings, the article goes to highlight the level of caution we should all practise, both heterosexual and homosexual when conducting our affairs in public. The UAE have a long standing history of intolerance for any public acts of affection.
‘Honestly, I highly doubt they were parked outside of this woman’s house. And I’m failing to understand what the heck she was doing as she seems to have been going out of her way to try to see it.'
Abdalla, the chair of UAE LGBT said: ‘This does serve as a cautionary tale. I can't stress the importance - given the current climate and the string of arrests - to the LGBT community about keeping things in a safe, private setting, behind closed doors.’
He added however: ‘I think that people becoming over vigilant in order to catch people in the act caught should be discouraged; you are stepping on someone else's right to privacy, you are condemning them to a life of embarrassment and harassment. I implore the Emarati society to sit down and talk about sexuality, make the laws more rational, and allow room for forgiveness and dialogue.’
Shamil who is editor for GayMiddleEast in the Gulf region and a member of the UAE LGBT group stated: ‘As Abdallah mentioned the right of privacy is something to be stressed. Its not like they were caught in daylight or in the middle of the city or something, people need to respect privacy of others. I thing this highlights the importance of the issue of privacy.’
On 9 March this year the UAE LGBT group reported a group of 30 people, some of them gay, were arrested in a private setting while having an 'after party', highlighting the issues of lack of privacy and safe places in the Emirates.
Discussing this issue further Nasira commented: ‘With little or no tolerance at home and within hotel establishments due to the laws etc… unfortunately many people do not have viable alternatives of where to meet with their partners or spouses.’
Shamil added: ‘And that is why people eventually are pushed to act in this way, as space which is supposed to be private is supressed and monitored.’