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DUBAI: 'Manly' women considered menace to society

March 13, 2009 | 10:01 am

Dubaiwomen

We've all heard about the financial crisis hitting  Dubai and the United Arab Emirates' economy: real estate prices plummeting, herds of professionals getting laid off and flocks of shopping-obsessed tourists disappearing.

In this economic mess, the oil-rich United Arab Emirates has set its sights not on unscrupulous bankers or speculators, but bizarrely on women said to act and dress in a masculine way.

The government of the United Arab Emirates, a confederation of kingdoms torn between the conservative Muslim society and Western influences, is dead serious about “protecting” society against the growing number of women said to dress, behave and speak like men.

In fact, the ministry of social affairs a few days ago launched a campaign called “Excuse me, I am a girl," directed against what they described as the "fourth gender," according to media reports. The language is seen as a euphemism for lesbians.

Officials sounded the alarm against these women who they say have lost their femininity whom then allege harass “normal” women in schools, universities and workplaces.

Some, they say, are “menacing” because of their homosexual tendencies.

Naji Hay, an official at the ministry of social affairs, said in an article published on the website of the Arab satellite TV channel, Al-Arabiya:

“The phenomenon of manly women has become apparent in society.... These women are against the normal nature of females. Their deviant behavior threatens other normal girls. This is why we had to launch this initiative to protect society from this menace.”

The campaign, which involves educational experts and psychologists, will include awareness workshops to explain the phenomenon and ways to face it.

Similar calls were heard in neighboring Persian Gulf countries. In Bahrain last year, for instance, a group of lawmakers urged the government to “punish” kids who “veer towards homosexuality” in schools.

Speaking publicly about lesbianism is rare in the Arab world, where the phenomenon is considered simply as nonexistent. Officials in the region unleash their wrath much more often against male homosexuality because of the male-dominated nature of societies here that consider it as a “disgrace” to manhood.

In May 2008, Dubai’s police carried a one-week operation to crackdown on homosexuals in public spaces around the city.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: An Emirati woman walks past an advertisement at festival city in Dubai on March 9. Credit: Karim Sahib / AFP/Getty Images

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