Is Prostitution Legal In Dubai? (Risks, Scams & Dark Secrets)

No one could blame you for wondering whether the stunning woman in your hotel bar, with her ridiculously hot outfit. And “come hither” eyes are part of the oldest profession in the world.

This is especially so when no one bats an eyelid when she saunters off with a ridiculously chubby, middle-aged guy!

Prostitution is illegal in Dubai, although it is a thriving industry linked to human trafficking.

Several foreign prostitutes use UAE residence visas to travel to Dubai and illegally ply their trade in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs licensed to serve alcohol.  

So, if you want to know more regarding Dubai’s illegal prostitution syndicates with their strong ties to human trafficking – read on!

Prostitution In Dubai: A Brief Overview

Although prostitution is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai and punishable with imprisonment, deportation, or hefty fines, the sex trade is thriving.

So, it’s no wonder Dubai has been nicknamed the Middle East’s “Sodom-sur-Mer,” or the epicenter of debauchery!

However, prostitution in Dubai has been on the rise for numerous years, which is evident by the fact that Sheikh Saeed famously made it compulsory for prostitutes to either leave or get married.

Interestingly, Sheikh Rashid forcibly deported Persian prostitutes that worked in Bur Dubai’s red-light district and the Baniyas Square (formerly Nasser Square) from 1950-1960.

This caused a British bank in Dubai to run out of cash reserves when the prostitutes tried to withdraw all their savings.

Contemporary Dubai has become the epicenter for prostitution in the Middle East, attracting numerous young women from impoverished countries for short periods before they return to their home countries.

This massive influx of foreign prostitutes is underscored by the fact that the UAE expelled 4,300 sex workers in 2006 alone.

Even though prostitution is illegal in regions like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the authorities tend to turn a blind eye if the matter is kept under wraps.

So, how do these foreign prostitutes legally enter Dubai, you might wonder? The answer is a loophole in the law that has been in place for numerous years, even though the government has tried to curtail it.

All UAE citizens are entitled to a certain number of residence visas that are predominantly used to hire foreign domestic staff.

However, unused residence visas are typically sold to intermediaries who sell them to prostitutes or their handlers for thousands of dollars so they can legally enter and stay in Dubai for two years.

Although these prostitutes are not legally allowed to enter Dubai without a male escort if they are under 31, they circumvent that law by simply entering the country with a 30-day tourist visa.

Prostitution In Dubai Is A Thriving Industry

While there have been instances of street prostitution in rare cases, most tend to offer their services in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs that are licensed to serve alcohol which is prohibited in most public areas throughout Dubai and the UAE.

And while prostitution is illegal in Dubai, hiring a prostitute is incredibly easy as it is an “open secret,” and clients can choose between women from across the globe.

However, prostitutes from India, China, and Filipinos are less in demand and command lower hourly rates than women from Central Asia.

And while Eastern and Western European prostitutes are more valued than Asian sex workers, Arab women who rarely enter the sex trade are the most in demand.

While it is impossible to provide an accurate estimate, there are currently approximately 45,000 active prostitutes in Dubai.

Based on data extracted from the number of residence visas or foreigners that have received sponsorships from UAE nationals.

However, it must be said that some UAE citizens who sell their surplus residence visas to intermediaries are not always aware that foreign prostitutes will use them instead of law-abiding immigrants.

The fact remains that the Dubai residence visa program creates the illusion that foreign prostitutes enter the country without any protection from their pimps or handlers, which is a complete fallacy.

Online Prostitution In Dubai Is Illegal

The UAE Public Prosecution has also been clamping down on anyone who entices or incites others to engage in illegal prostitution online with the promulgation of the Federal Decree Law in 2021 concerning cybercrimes.

Sanctions for those found guilty vary between temporary imprisonment, coupled with a fine of Dhs 250 000, or imprisonment of 5 years or more, and a fine of up to Dhs 1 million for displaying provocative images of children online.

The Link Between Prostitution And Sex Trafficking In Dubai

Like most leading tourist destinations, Dubai hides a dark underbelly rife with human trafficking and women forced to work in the thriving sex tourism sector against their will.

This disturbing fact is underscored by a 2017 UN published report concerning a young girl from Uzbekistan who was trafficked to Dubai to work as a prostitute and was willing to be arrested so that she could be deported after 18 harrowing months of working as a sex slave.

There have also been numerous vetted reports of young Bangladeshi girls who were lured to Dubai due to the misrepresentation that they would be employed as domestic workers in Dubai when they were instead forced to work as prostitutes.

It is also widely known that Asian or Chinese criminal syndicates force impoverished women in Nepal, China, and India to enter the sex trade against their will.

Women are also trafficked from countries like Iran, and several remain in the country for numerous years.

Furthermore, the US State Department has consistently stated in its annual human trafficking reports that while great strides have been made to combat human trafficking in the UAE, much still needs to be done to address this issue.

Fortunately, UAE authorities are doing everything possible to combat Dubai’s growing sex trafficking trade.

While the UAE authorities only managed to convict a few prominent sex traffickers between 2020-21, it is far more than the conviction rates of other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Emirati authorities have also partnered with the nonprofit sector to create various shelters for young women who need help with all the amenities and services they need.

And trafficked women can access these much-needed services via hotlines throughout the UAE.

Although much work is needed to address the scourge of human trafficking across the globe, Dubai is slowly making headway in this regard.


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