DUBAI - THE UGLY SIDE
A while ago I posted my Dubai Travel Tips and, as the effects of Covid-19 start to decline and people are preparing to start booking holidays again, a few safety concerns came to mind which I felt were important to address. I say this all the time and I said this in that post, you must visit Dubai at least once in your life. Having said that, as someone who has lived and holidayed in Dubai, I feel I have a good perspective of the country as both a resident and a tourist and I have a huge love/hate relationship with the place.
Dubai is like a 5th home to me (I’m a real nomad and have lived in several countries) and I have some great memories there. Whenever I go back, I am greeted like a long lost relative by immigration (they can tell from my passport that I once lived there) which makes me feel very welcome and appreciated. I also have friends there and doing the rounds is always so much fun, but like every city, Dubai has an ugly side.
One of the main concerns for people travelling to the Middle East, and the question I get asked most often, is “Are women very oppressed in Dubai?”. Let me be very clear, this post is specifically related to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and I can only address this from MY personal experience which, although extensive, is in no way a generalisation. With this definition of oppression in mind,
"Oppression: A situation in which people are governed in an unfair and cruel way and prevented from having opportunities and freedom." Cambridge Dictionary
my answer is "No, women are not oppressed in Dubai". Having said that, I do feel that women are, as in many other parts of the world, treated as second class citizens as a result of patriarchy. What this means is that you won’t feel any more oppressed in Dubai than you would in Alabama, a state in the USA that passed the Human Life Protection Act; take that as you will *sips tea*. In fact, what I would consider the main infringements on women's rights are all in relation to sex, for example, women aren't allowed access to family planning services unless given consent by their husbands. Yes, in 2020.
I think my main gripe with Dubai is that it creates an air of what I feel is 'false safety'. I once left my phone at a restaurant and the person who picked it up when I called drove to meet me (I wasn’t alone!) in order to return it. You could go into a store and leave your bag on a chair while you perused the store and nobody would touch it (yes, I know this creates other safety issues). You could leave your car unlocked without fear of theft. These are things you cannot do in the majority of countries and as such, you are made to feel very secure. So what’s the problem you ask? Violence against women.
Violence against women isn’t exclusive to any country or city however, it is something you are aware of and warned against. Dubai does a great job of concealing its presence in the city and due to the difficulty in reporting such incidents, they maintain very low incidence statistics despite the reality being a lot more ugly. It genuinely petrifies me when I hear that young women travel to Dubai on sex work related trips. This is not because of any level of judgement on my part but rather, because I feel like these women have no real idea of how much danger they are putting themselves in; Dubai is a place where the average man has more power than he would elsewhere and that has proven to be detrimental to such women.
This post would be incredibly long if I wrote of the various experiences I have personally had, I experienced through others or have heard of from trusted sources, so I'll continue the conversation on the next episode of the Not Rude, Honest Podcast (click here) but I can tell you that they include sexual assault, rape and injustice.
I still maintain that Dubai is a great destination to visit but please take safety precautions as you would with any other country. As I stated in a previous post, men can pose a real danger to women and it is no different in Dubai, so travel responsibly.
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