All sexual acts outside of heterosexual marriage are banned in the United Arab Emirates. However, whether sodomy is punished with death penalty remains in dispute.
The Arabic text of article 354 is ambiguously phrased and can be translated in different ways. Some sources indicate that the article punishes rape of a woman or forced sodomy with a man, while others indicate that it punishes rape on women and sodomy
The semi-official translation used by attorneys in the Emirates states that "any individual who forcibly compels a woman to carnal copulation or a man to sodomy" is punished by death.
In a German parliamentary report the article has been translated as follows: "Irrespective of the provisions of the Act on Delinquent and Vagrant Juveniles, any person who forcibly engages in sexual intercourse with a woman, or a homosexual act with a homosexual, shall be punished with the death penalty. Coercion shall be recognised if the condemned person was fourteen years of age at the time of the commission of the offence."
Schmitt, Arno and Sofer, Jehoeda, (1992, Sexuality and Eroticism Among Males in Moslem Societies. Binghamton: Harrington Park Press, p. 144.), on the other hand, suggest that the article can be translated differently; "Whoever commits rape on a female or
sodomy with a male".
Amnesty International, finally, considers article 354 to apply to rape only, and not to consensual same-sex acts. However, the organization states that the "Zina" provision according to Sharia law, punishing sexual acts by married persons outside of marriage by death, could possible apply in the UAE, although it is not aware of any such death sentences for consensual same-sex conduct.
Apart from federal law, consensual sodomy is criminalised in the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Article 80 of the Dubai Penal Code punishes sodomy with a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment, while article 177 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code punishes such acts with a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment. [R1.3].
Homosexuality is illegal in the Muslim UAE and neighbouring Gulf countries, where offenders could face flogging along with imprisonment, while foreigners could also face expulsion [R1.2].
In July 2008, police in the Gulf tourist hub of Dubai said they'd detained 17 foreigners for allegedly displaying homosexual behavior in malls and other public places [R1.1].