UAE: Two men jailed for alleged public gay ‘fondling’ highlight privacy issues

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Two men ‘spotted’ fondling each other in a parked car near a beach in Jumeirah, Dubai were sentenced yesterday to three months prison terms each to be followed by deportation, reported the National, an Emirates based daily.

The two, a 27-year-old Filipino salon receptionist 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 April 9 following a tip off from a member of the public.

The 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 neighbour’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 have being acquainted for about five months after meeting on the internet, and 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 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 proceeds 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.

Members of the UAE Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group made several comments.

Nasira clarified: ‘Whilst it’s unfortunate that acts of a sexual nature follow jail terms rather than heavy penalties 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 (or in her living room as I’m failing to understand what the heck she was doing out out of the house trying to see what was happening),’ she added.

Abdallah, 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 that what ought to be done in a safe, private setting, behind closed doors.’

He added however that: ‘I think that people becoming over-vigilant in order to catch people in the act 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 Emirati society to sit down and talk about sexuality, make the laws more rational, and allow room for forgiveness and dialogue.’

Shamil who is also a the editor for GayMiddleEast Gulf region and a member of the UAE LGBT group stated: ‘As Abdulla mentioned, the right of privacy is something to be stressed, it’s not like they were caught in daylight or in the middle of the city or something, people need to respect privacy of others. I think this highlights the importance of the issue of privacy.’

On the 9th of March 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 suppressed and monitored.’