Ladyboys in the Middle East Find Fortune, Danger





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Published on Oct 27, 2012

"Although there is very little data regarding this phenomenon, activists and lawyers who work with transgender sex workers say that the thriving sex trade in the Middle East, especially in Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Bahrain, is attracting hundreds of transgender sex workers, mostly from South Asia and the Pacific Islands. All these Gulf countries abide by strict Islamic law, outlaw homosexuality, and forbid gay foreigners from entering the country.

Transgender individuals in particular have a difficult time traveling and residing in Gulf countries -- if they are caught with documents identifying them as members of the opposite sex, they're immediately detained and deported. If they are arrested for sex work, they could be jailed for even longer periods before they are allowed to leave the country.

This is one of the more extreme challenges faced by the Arab Gulf countries as they struggle to adapt to the changing cultural norms brought on by globalization. With the discovery of oil, these countries have been catapulted to the forefront of the world economy -- but massive wealth has brought huge social changes as well, as foreigners have brought their own cultures with them, sometimes shocking the deeply conservative populations. This is most evident in emirates such as Dubai, where migrants make up 90 percent of the population. These communities have long grappled with the sale of alcohol and foreigners' scanty clothing -- but the presence of transgender sex workers is dealt with not through compromise, but brute repression."* Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian break down the draw and danger faced by transgender sex workers in Gulf countries.

*Read more from Sulome Anderson/ Foreign Policy:

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