“Homosexuality is a crime in Islam! I could have been killed,” said Nadeem, who left India to seek work as a construction laborer in central Dubai.
He says there are several of his friends have been living under a shadow of fear for several decades now.
“For those who are rich, it is easier to have their secret sex lives irrespective of their sexual preferences and not be intimidated by others. But for us with little money, we are always scared,” says Pasha who came to Dubai 25 years ago.
While Dubai appears modern and advanced in terms of technology and architecture, Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code of the United Arab Emirates makes consensual sodomy punishable by death.
For both Nadeem and Pasha the threat is lethal.
Nadeem narrates the story of another man from India who was caught having a sexual relationship with another man by the warden of the camp. “They say both were executed,” he said.
Nadeem lives in Sonapur, a labor camp to the west of Dubai. This thirteen square kilometer area houses workers who build the Manhattanesque Dubai that shows off its glamour to the world. Six out of every ten manual laborers who live in the United Arab Emirates come from India. Others come from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.
Most workers live in 12 feet by 12 feet rooms with bunk beds that accommodate eight to ten people who work long, grueling days in the sweltering heat. Most of them visit their homes for about a month every two years. They only have to live with each other until the periodic visit home. By some estimates, more than 5000 men live in this area.
When Nadeem first came to Dubai, he was 24. He said he had several boys who were his friends in his village and he didn’t feel intimidated by them. But, “when I first came to the camp, the men here ragged me. They asked me if I liked to sleep with men. I wasn’t sure what to say to them. It took me time to realize that I actually liked to,” he said.
He says despite the pathetic conditions he has to live under, the one thing he is glad about is that he discovered his sexuality in the camps.
“There are conservative religious people who reside in the camps who threaten us,” says Nadeem. No one in the camp knows about Nadeem’s sexual orientation, but several people suspect it.
Presently, he has been in a committed relationship with a man who also resides in the same area for more than two years. “We are very happy,” he says. Since Nadeem and his partner are from different countries, they do not live in the same room. Rooms are allotted according to nationalities. Nadeem sneaks into his partner’s room when his partner’s seven roommates are away. “And that happens once in a blue moon,” he said.
The country however, seems less unfair for the wealthy members of the LGBT community. “I book rooms at the Hilton or Sheraton when I feel like,” he said. There are also unofficial gay hangouts that circulate the web and are open to people with connections, a wealthy Saudi Arabia national who frequents Dubai told firstpost.com