DUBAI, (Reuters) – A British woman and Irish man accused of engaging in sexual activities in a Dubai taxi were sentenced on Thursday to three months in prison and then deportation, their lawyer said.
The case is the latest in which Westerners have fallen foul of the United Arab Emirates’ decency laws, highlighting cultural differences as the UAE seeks a balance between maintaining its Muslim identity and catering for a vibrant tourism industry.
Rebecca Blake and Conor McRedmond both denied charges of “breach of honour with consent” and committing “an indecent act in a taxi” when they appeared in court last month. They also pleaded guilty to a third charge related to consumption of alcohol in public.
“The court sentenced them to jail for three months and deportation in addition to a fine of 3,000 dirhams ($817) each,” their lawyer Shaker al-Shammary told Reuters.
He said they would appeal.
There have been several cases in recent years of Westerners accused of violating decency laws in Dubai, the most cosmopolitan of the seven-member UAE federation.
In 2008, a British couple was found guilty of engaging in drunken sexual activity out of wedlock and in public on a beach in Dubai. They were sentenced to three months in prison followed by deportation but had their jail terms overturned on appeal.
In 2010, another British couple were sentenced to a month in jail and fined for kissing on the mouth in a restaurant in Dubai.
The cultural chasm in the Gulf Arab state between the country’s native Muslim population and the expatriates community, is conspicuous in everyday life.
While Emirati women cover themselves from head to toe with a headscarf and a traditional black gown, some of their Western expatriate counterparts walk around in shorts or mini-skirts, and public beaches are full of tourists sunbathing in bikinis.
Islam bans alcohol for Muslims. In the UAE, non-Muslims can drink at most hotels and beach bars where all-you-can-drink brunches heave with revellers every weekend.
Expatriates make up more than 90 percent of the UAE’s population.