Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What are the standards?

One more post on the general subject of the way the indecency laws can be abused. And on what visitors can learn about the standards expected of them.

First, a post on the forum of ExpatWoman (thanks to Trailing Spouse for sending it to me).

It says:

"today my 2 sons and my middle sons girlfriend went to MOE for the UFC signing at Virgin. After they went to the food court for pizza. My middle son went to fetch the order and as he sat down the security guard stormed over and agressively confronted him about kissing his girlfriend. He produced a leaflet and waved it in his face all the while shouting "not allowed, not allowed". Of course he had done no such thing with many witnesses to back him up. When they asked the security guard who had accused them he said " a lady over there".!!!!! Of course my son was very angry, but luckily he didnt swear!! Needless to say many other expats were around and were completely gobsmacked by the whole thing, The security guard was very agressive in his manner, but luckily another gaurd came over to defuse the situation, and he was also approached by another European to back my sons story. What a bad taste its left in our mouths. 17 years we have lived here, we know the law of the land!! What makes me so very cross is that a person can accuse you of something that you havent done, just because they can. What is this place coming to?"

It's another confirmation of what I've been ranting about for some time -any malicious person, someone in bad mood, someone in a temper, a rival, can have you arrested by simply claiming you committed an offence.

It happens, as several high-profile cases have confirmed.

And my bet is that we're going to see much more of it. Copycat stuff. People who're reading the recent high-profile cases deciding they'll do it too. As the poster said, simply because they can.

Then the second point, what tourists can learn about how they must behave.

Yesterday the Dubai Today programme on Dubai Eye radio had an extended segment on the British kissing couple case and its ramifications.

One thing that came up, as it has whenever the laws are discussed, is that visitors need to inform themselves about the way they must behave in countries they're visiting.

Very true, but visitors to Dubai get conflicting and confusing information all at the same time.

I did a quick bit of research on it, as someone coming here might.

I looked at it from a Brit's point of view, because they seem to be the ones falling foul of the law more than others.

The UK Foreign Office website says that proportionally, Britons are most likely to be arrested in the UAE than any other country in the world.

So what do they learn about Dubai before they come here?

From their media they get conflicting messages.

They see stories like these running at the same time:

"Kissing Dubai Brits to be jailed

TWO Britons convicted of kissing in public had their one-month prison sentence upheld by a Dubai court today."

"Danielle Lloyd shows off six-month bump as she embraces Jamie O'Hara on Dubai beach break

With just three months to go until the arrival of her first child, Danielle Lloyd's happiness is obvious. The glamour model wrapped her arms around her fiancé Jamie O'Hara as they embraced while preparing a barbecue in Dubai."

That's clear then.

Kissing is banned/is allowed. Unmarried couples are banned/allowed.

So they check the official Dubai Dept of Tourism & Commerce Marketing site.

Under 'Tips for Tourists' they find a caution - but only about prohibited medicines.

I couldn't find anything about unmarried couples or what is deemed indecent behaviour. I looked under 'Clothing' and found:

"Compared with certain parts of the Middle East, Dubai has a very relaxed dress code. However, care should be taken not to give offence by wearing clothing which may be considered revealing. At the pool or on the beaches, trunks, swim-suits and bikinis are quite acceptable."


What about alcohol?

"Alcohol is available in hotel and club restaurants and bars. However, restaurants outside the hotels are not permitted to serve alcoholic beverages.

Nothing there to say that people have been charged with 'consuming alcohol'.

So I moved to another site Google had given me,

"Dubai Culture

Dubai is a cosmopolitan city and visitors can dress however they like. Still, a good amount of respect for local customs is appreciated. In deference to local customs and norms it is a good idea for visitors not to wear very short, tight clothing, at least until such time as they are comfortable with the city.

I went to another site, GoDubai:

"Dubai has managed to achieve what other Arab cities have failed to do, create the right balance western influence and eastern tradition. Its culture is rooted in Islamic traditions that penetrate the Arabian peninsula and beyond, but the city’s visionary development is evident proof of an open-minded and liberal outlook."

I've also seen on travel forums similar answers to the questions. One recently had answers from Dubai residents to a young single woman who asked what she should wear. They ranged from 'cover your arms & knees' to 'shorts & T-shirt can be worn anywhere'.

What I didn't find in this search were warnings about what is deemed to be indecent public behaviour.

What does the British Foreign office say?

"Women should dress modestly when in public areas, such as shopping malls. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there have been several arrests for kissing in public. Sex outside of marriage is illegal and if any unmarried couples are brought to the attention of the UAE authorities they run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation.

Britons can find themselves facing charges relating to cultural differences, such as using bad language, rude gestures or public displays of affection. British nationals should also be aware of the UAE’s strict laws banning sex outside of marriage."

Well that's the most accurate but it conflicts with almost all the previous information I've been reading.

It's the only one I found that talks about unmarried couples - but compare that with the evidence of the Danielle Lloyd story.

The key phrase is hidden in there though. "...if any unmarried couples are brought to the attention of the UAE authorities..."

That's the reality of course. You can get away with just about anything as long as no-one calls the cops.

But then you don't need to be breaking any law to be arrested. You can just be unlucky enough to cross the path of someone in a bad mood or someone who's bored and needs to brighten up their day. That'll do it.

It needs sorting out.

For all of us living here, regardless of nationality, and for the millions of visitors.

I've quoted from these:

Kissing Dubai Brits.
Danielle Lloyd.
Expat Woman.
DTCM Tips for Tourists.
UK Travel Advisory.


Susan said...

There was a really interesting article in The Express last weekend (or maybe the weekend before) by an Emirati laywer who spelled out in detail exactly what the LAW says - and he says it says nothing about kissing or holding hands being illegal. There is an offence of Public Indecency but he said it was meant to cover serious offences, not simple hand holding.

And yet there's a letter in today's 7 Days from someone claiming to be an Emirati who says he's going to report every Westerner he sees "misbehaving" to the police.

The thing is, if he doesn't know his own laws, how does he know when someone is misbehaving?

Dave said...

A commonly used simplistic definition of culture is "The way we do things around here".

With so much inconsistency in the application of the law and no confirmed guidance from those in authority I fear you are correct when you say that cases such as those highlighted will continue. Because when I look around me the way things are done around here would confuse the most intelligent of people.

Doug Freeman said...

What worries me is the fact that cops here are quick to jump the gun based on hearsay.

All I can make out of these reports is that Dubai is testing the terrain before dropping a bombshell to self-destruct.

Anonymous said...

The law here in UAE is murky. Why did the brit couple were sentenced to jail just by kissing when both male Emiratis here also kiss each other in the lips? Restaurants here in UAE are allowed to sell alcoholic drinks. Any person can buy. But why it's not allowed to consume what you have bought? This is outrageous.


Jayne said...

I could understand the uproar/outrage (hysterical as it is!) if 'couples' were caught kissing in public in Riyadh - but Dubai? Have malls now started using ex-muttawa officers or something? The UAE as a whole has so much going for it, but it seems it literally does have a self destruct button. I miss Abu Dhabi, but I honestly don't think I'd rush back.

Anonymous said...

A man has been detained after an incident on a flight from Washington's Reagan airport to Denver.

Two F-16 jets were scrambled to intercept the plane and escort it to land safely at Denver airport, the US Northern Command said.

There were initial reports that a Qatari diplomat had tried to set fire to his shoes.

But officials later said no explosives were found and he had apparently been trying to smoke in a plane toilet.

While this case may not be even remotely related, it does show the attitude of "I am important so I dont need to follow rules".
This same attitude is coupled with "Expats have to follow laws else they will be reported". At least in Singapore, strict laws have to be followed by everyone.

Middle Eastern embassies owe thousands of unpaid congestion charges in London, probably part of the same attitude.

Anonymous said...

This business about the police arresting you over some imaginary crime just because they can is now prevalant in Britain.

My car was stopped by the police recently, because they said my car "wobbled" as I pulled away from the traffic lights. They breathalysed me (twice!)but it was negative. One demanded to see my driving licence, insurance certificate and vehicle docs whilst the other examined my car tyres, lights etc.

They couldn't do me for anything, so they reluctantly let me go. Then they wonder why most people nowadays regard the police as "the enemy"!

Seabee said...

Keith, I think it was you who called it Britastan?

Were you looking like the cops' profile of a hoodlum? Hoodie, furtive look, trousers worn to show your underpants?

They reluctantly let you go...but they have your car rego and address. You're a marked man. Any trouble in the neighbourhood and you'll be getting the 4am raid by masked, black-clad gunmen, shouting their heads off.

I'd be thinking of moving to the next county if I were you.

David said...

IS this a common practice in all Gulf countries.My uncle lives in Saudi Arab and he told me that there is little to no freedom to Asians.
I think most of the middle east countries are like this.

Seabee said...

David, is what common practice?

And most ME countire are like what?

I'm happy to answer questions but I need to know what the questions are.

CG said...

what do you mean about Emirati men kissing each other on the lips?

Jayne, I hear you girl. The country is addictive, but once you can break free, spread your wings and fly.

Elva said...

I am in 10th grade. I am a dual-citizenship Mexican and USA. I really want to make my life in Dubai. What are my chances of succeeding in Dubai. First of I am fluent in 4 languages : French, English, Portuguese, and Spanish. I am considering taking Russian when i get to college. I want either have a career in law or business. What are my chances of suceeding in Dubai.