Singaporean man and trans woman sentenced to a year in jail each for ‘wearing women’s clothes in public’ in Abu Dhabi

A pair of Singaporean citizens have been arrested, charged and sentenced to one year in jail in Abu Dhabi for “wearing women’s clothes in public”, according to various media reports.

Radha Stirling managing partner of StirlingHaigh and founder and CEO of not-for-profit organisation Detained in Dubai first reported about the case, in which 26-year-old Muhammad Fadli Bin Abdul Rahman and 37-year-old Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim were arrested on Aug 9, a day after they landed in the United Arab Emirates capital. Eleven days later, they were sentenced, despite having no legal representation.

An official court document stated that the two were caught “cross-dressing”, and for behaving indecently. Qistina is in the process of transitioning into a woman and had changed her name, but her gender is still stated as “male” on her passport. Cross-dressing, transgenderism and homosexuality are crimes in the UAE — if Qistina had been a post-op trans woman, the authorities would likely have had no rationale for the arrest. It is believed that the two Singaporeans were unaware of the strict laws regarding the “impersonation” of women. Both had been in the country to work on a photo shoot — Fadli is a freelance fashion photographer. The two were nabbed at a shopping mall.

According to a Straits Time report, Qistina had actually gone on holiday in the UAE four times before, and came home safely each time. As for Fadli, his brother mentioned that he had sent a selfie of himself wearing a “normal white shirt” just before he was arrested.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had informed their families about the arrests last week, and were only told about the prison sentence on Sunday. Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has personally assured the families that they’re assisting the Singaporean duo as best as they can.

What’s even more outrageous is the fact that the two were not represented by lawyers in court. They can however file an appeal 15 days after the judgement, which will be on Sept 4.

 David Haigh of UAE legal advisory firm Stirling Haigh called for clearer definition and application of the law — strict regulations and punishments exist despite the overt existence of gay and transgender communities and venues throughout the region.

“I call upon the UAE authorities to immediately release our clients and return them to their home,” he said.

CoconutsSingapore. “Singaporean Man and Trans Woman Sentenced to a Year in Jail Each for ‘Wearing Women’s Clothes in Public’ | Coconuts Singapore.” Coconuts, 24 Aug. 2017,

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