UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
DOWNLOAD BRIEF
LGBT+ Business Climate Score

Out Leadership’s snapshot of the current state of affairs for LGBT+ people, through the lens of international business. The Business Climate Score score is out of ten possible points, and is based on ten independently verifiable indicators of the legal, cultural and business context for LGBT+ people.

2.5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
1.
Are consensual homosexual acts between adults legal?
0
No
2.
Are marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples available?
0
No relationship recognition
3.
Is being LGBT+ punishable by death?
1
No
4.
Are sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment prohibited?
0
No
5.
Can transgender people legally change their gender markers?
0
No
6.
Is sex reassignment surgery at birth for intersex children prohibited?
0
No
7.
Are sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the provision of goods and services prohibited?
0
No
8.
Is there a U.S. State Department warning against travel for LGBT+ individuals?
1
No
9.
Do companies sponsor Pride?
0
No; there's no Pride celebration
10.
Are there laws prohibiting freedom of assembly or speech for LGBT+ people (i.e. “anti-propaganda laws”, media gags, etc)?
0.5
No, but officials act as though there were
Talking Points
  • The United Arab Emirates' anti-LGBT+ laws make it challenging for me to consider relocating any of my talented LGBT+ employees to the country.
  • The severity of the United Arab Emirates laws against the LGBT+ community damages its reputation and perception in the international business community.
  • International corporations and institutions have a challenging time doing business in the United Arab Emirates without receiving criticism from the global LGBT+ community.
  • By not welcoming LGBT+ visitors and tourists, the United Arab Emirates is missing out on a significant tourist market and opportunity to expand its economy. In the US alone, LGBT+ tourists spend $65 billion per year on hotels, flights, and other tourism-related expenses.
  • Assuming conservative estimates that 4-6% of the general population identifies as LGBT+, there are anywhere from 370,000-550,000 LGBT people in the United Arab Emirates. If the government repeals anti-LGBT+ laws, hundreds of thousands of LGBT+ people will be able to participate more fully and openly in the economy.
Talking Points
Impact of LGBT Discrimination on Business and Talent
  • 1
    NO RISK
  • 2
    LOW RISK
  • 3
    MODERATE RISK
  • 4
    NOTABLE RISK
  • 5
    HIGH RISK
BRAND RISK
  • 5
    HIGH RISK
There is high brand risk in supporting the LGBT+ community in the UAE by potentially provoking negative reactions from Emirati government officials. In addition, because same-sex relations are often prejudicially associated with pedophilia and other “deviant acts,” local Emiratis may be angered by a company’s attempt to promote LGBT+ rights.
CLIENT RISK
  • 4
    NOTABLE RISK
Due to the LGBT+ community’s increased scrutiny of LGBT+ rights in the UAE, LGBT+ clients may choose to move their business away from companies that conduct business in the UAE.
TALENT RISK
  • 5
    HIGH RISK
Many top LGBT+ identified employees cannot be relocated to Emirati offices due to a reasonable fear of imprisonment and deportation, in addition to the inability to secure spousal visas.
MARKETING RISK
  • 5
    HIGH RISK
As a result of anti-LGBT+ laws, corporations cannot undertake any LGBT+ specific marketing efforts when operating business in the UAE. Furthermore, because of loose interpretation of laws, visible support of the LGBT+ community in the UAE could lead to legal persecution.
Socio-cultural Environment for LGBT+ People:

Status of LGBT+ Organizing and Community

  • — Due to social conventions and potential political persecution, LGBT+ organizations do not operate openly, nor are LGBT+ pride marches or gay rights advocacy events held.
  • — There is some activity through social media channels, though they are not fully safe. Attempted police entrapment of LGBT+ people through digital surveillance has been reported.

Cultural Views of the LGBT+ Community

  • — In Emirati society, same-sex desire is commonly believed to result from a physical or mental health problem for which “treatment” is strongly encouraged. At times, the government has threatened to subject people to compulsory psychological and hormonal treatment for homosexual activity.
  • — Some same-sex behavior is culturally acceptable (e.g., men holdings hands and friendly kissing).  Nonetheless, locals and foreigners have been arrested, deported, and jailed by authorities for homosexual conduct.
  • — There is a gay nightlife scene and higher-end hotels catering to international travelers seem to be more accommodating to homosexual couples.
  • — Within the Arabic language, there are few terms or concepts specific to the LGBT+ experience. Despite recent efforts to coin new terminology, the language clusters all sexual behavior considered to be “deviant,” which results in Arabic speakers associating same-sex relations with pedophilia and other lewd acts.
Local Leaders Advocating for LGBT+ Equality

Because of the severity of the legal situation in the UAE, reaching out directly to any Emirati citizen to discuss LGBT issues may put that person at risk for prosecution. Instead of speaking with local leaders, Out Leadership recommends reaching out to the following people outside of the United Arab Emirates:

Graeme Reid Director, LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch

Jessica Stern Executive Director, OutRight Action International