No matter where you are, belonging to the LGBTQ community practically guarantees receiving unsolicited hate and criticism from close-minded people.
But in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), being openly gay could lead to more than just public scrutiny — namely, a prison sentence, fines, or deportation. Even a cultural misunderstanding can get you arrested if it hints at homosexuality, as one unfortunate foreigner found out while visiting the country.
In the UAE, having sexual relations outside a heterosexual marriage is punishable by law, and in Dubai, consensual sodomy is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. Simple PDAs aren’t safe either if they’re between members of the same sex, even if they’re unintentional.
That’s what landed 27-year-old Jamie Harron behind bars back in July. The Scottish electrician was only supposed to be stopping in the country for two days after his business trip to Afghanistan, but he was facing three months inside a Dubai prison. He’s since lost his job.
Harron was arrested and charged with public indecency after innocently putting his hand on a businessman’s hip to avoid spilling a drink at a bar. That simple gesture shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Well, it was to prosecutors. His accuser even dropped the complaint later on, but they still went ahead with the case.
Things were looking pretty bad for Harron. He was stuck in a foreign place for months without his travel documents, which were confiscated after he was released on bail. Thankfully, though, all the charges against him were just dropped and his sentence was overturned at the order of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the nation’s leader.