Our plan has been to tackle Middle East next after South-East Asia and what would be a better place to start than Dubai? Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the UAE and is the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the country. It’s known for it’s skyscrapers, especially Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (840m). Dubai is an important transport hub for passengers and that is why it was a convenient stopover location for us, travelling from Sri Lanka to Jordan. It’s not a surprise that Dubai’s hotel rooms are rated as the world’s second most expensive (after Geneva) although our lovely hotel for one night was only 30 euros for both of us, situated close to the sights. But behind all of Dubai’s shine and glory, behind it’s Versace and Cartier stores rests a disturbing amount of human rights violations, especially regarding labour force and women. Below I’ve gathered some facts of the UAE rights that I think people should be more aware of.
Accommodation: Al Jawhara Metro Hotel (15 eur pp/night)
Some of the 250,000 foreign labourers in the city have been living in conditions described by Human Rights Watch as “less than humane”. The mistreatment of foreign workers was a subject of the difficult-to-make documentary, Slaves in Dubai (2009). The Dubai government has denied labour injustices and stated that the accusations were ‘misguided’. The filmmaker explained in interviews how it was necessary to go undercover to avoid discovery by the authorities, who impose high fines on reporters attempting to document human rights abuses, including the conditions of construction workers.
In 2008-2009, only 21% of Emirati women were part of the labor force and 80% of women in the UAE are classified as household workers (maids). According to Human Rights Watch, UAE’s civil and criminal courts apply elements of Sharia law, codified into its criminal code and family law, in a way which discriminates against women. Here’s a groundbreaking fact for you all: In Islam, men are allowed to have multiple wives, but women are being put to prison for getting raped as they “have had extramarital sex”. In a case of rape, women who have reported being raped have been sentenced to prison for “engaging in extramarital relations”, as their allegations were considered unfounded by authorities. Stoning and flogging (whipping) are legal punishments in the UAE due to the Sharia courts. Flogging is used in UAE as a punishment for many criminal offences, such as adultery, premarital sex and prostitution (for women).
In 2010, a Muslim woman in Abu Dhabi withdrew her allegations of being gang-raped by 6 men, claiming that the police threatened her with corporal punishment for premarital sex. In 2013 a Norwegian woman, Marte Dalelv, received a prison sentence of sixteen months in Dubai for perjury, consensual extramarital sex and alcohol consumption, after she reported her boss to the police for an alleged rape; she was later fully pardoned and allowed to leave the country.
Regarding LGBT rights, in keeping with traditional Islamic morality, both Federal and Emirate law prohibit homosexuality and cross-dressing with punishment ranging from long prison sentences, deportation, for foreigners, and the death penalty.