Two UAE-based Singaporeans sentenced to jail for 'dressing feminine'

UAE criticised for its conservative gender laws after two Singaporeans jailed for 'dressing too feminine'
2 min read
24 August, 2017
Homosexuality, transgenderism, and cross dressing are illegal in the UAE, and punishable with prison terms.
The UAE is notorious for its crackdown on human rights and personal freedoms [AFP]
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."

Fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli bin Abdul Rahman and transgender friend Noor Vitriya Kistina Ibrahim were arrested at a shopping mall in Abu Dhabi at the weekend and sentenced to a year in jail, according to relatives.

They were charged for “looking feminine.” Fadli, 26, told his family that he was wearing earrings and a tie at the time of his arrest. 

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.