Homophobic Dubai to host major LGBT+ rights conference sparking fears for speakers’ safety

Dubai's Burj Al-arab hotel

An LGBT+ rights conference is set to be held in the United Arab Emirates, one of the most homophobic countries in the world.

In May, 2021, the International Conference on Gender Identity and LGBT Rights will take place in Dubai.

The conference brings together “leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects” of gender identity and LGBT+ rights.

The “interdisciplinary platform” will allow researchers and academics from around the world to discuss challenges faced by the LGBT+ community.

However, the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, the open science organisation which runs the conference, has not acknowledged the face that it is holding its event in one of the most anti-LGBT+ countries in the world, the United Arab Emirates.

One Twitter user simply wrote: “WTF this is a joke, right?”

Another said that while there were “concerns because authorities haven’t specified whether any presenters may face legal repercussions”, the news gave them “hope that the liberalisation of the Emirates is happening faster than expected”.

Gay sex is illegal for men and women in the United Arab Emirates under section 354 of the federation’s legal code, which is based on Sharia law. Punishment can include deportation, chemical castrations, fines, prison time and execution.

There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships or trans people, and even cross-dressing is illegal.

Although LGBT+ are persecuted under the federal penal code, which follows Sharia Law, each emirate also has its own legal system that criminalises the queer community.

In Dubai specifically, article 177 of the penal code punishes consensual gay sex with up to 10 years in prison.

In 2017, a British man who was arrested for public indecency after touching another man’s hip in a Dubai bar to avoid spilling his drink was jailed for three months.