In Dubai, Public Kissing Can Land You in Jail

By Huang, Carol | The Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2010 | Go to article overview

In Dubai, Public Kissing Can Land You in Jail


Huang, Carol, The Christian Science Monitor


In Dubai, British couple Charlotte Adams and Ayman Najafi were given a month in jail for public kissing. What do foreigners living in Dubai think of the case?

The news made for titillating global headlines:

"Smooching Brits banished from Dubai."

"Blonde whose kiss could lead to jail."

But foreigners here in Dubai express little shock or outrage that twenty-something Brits Charlotte Adams and Ayman Najafi were given a month in prison for kissing in public late last year. The appealed sentence was upheld by a judge here on Sunday.

Most foreigners express sympathy with the Dubai government's point of view - and amusement at the whole affair.

"You have to respect the law of the land," says Reza, an Iranian- American who moved here in 2007. Although, he adds, "my girlfriend is coming to visit, so I better watch out."

What are the rules for public behavior in Dubai? Jana Barnard, a South African who's lived here for six years, says that "when you come here you should check on what the rules are.... The international media blows it out of proportion while the local media try to play it down." Dubai attracts millions of tourists and expats with its beachside resorts, swank nightclubs, world's tallest building, and relatively liberal social mores compared with some of the countries in the region. But the police here occasionally crack down on foreigners' behavior that is considered offensive, ranging from sexual text messages, to wearing a mini skirt, to adulterous affairs and, in a highly publicized incident in 2008, sex on a public beach. It's unclear if the crime in this case was "passionate" kissing, as the Emirati mother who reported the incident alleged, or, as the couple claim, a peck on the cheek that Brits often offer as a customary greeting. Few witnesses The Emirati woman first said she and her children had witnessed the incident, while eating at Bob's Easy Diner at a beachfront promenade popular with Western expats. "My daughter told me that the accused were kissing on the mouth. Then I spotted them doing so myself. …

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