Anti-gay sentiment shows limit of Gulf states’ liberal drive

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09/16/2022

Teachers returning for the new academic year in the United Arab Emirates were struck by a new bureaucratic demand. In a new code of conduct, one clause in particular jumped out: “refrain . . . from discussing gender identity, homosexuality or any other behaviour deemed unacceptable to UAE society”. The directive has sent a chill through the teaching community in English-language schools, where many of the staff are from the UK and Ireland. School management, responding to the perceived clampdown, have removed rainbow flags from classrooms and told teachers to remove rainbow wristbands. Children have been told that discussion of topics such as same-sex marriage and homosexuality is no longer allowed. “Every time we walk into the classroom, we are worried now,” said one teacher. For many, the new school directive was just the latest sign that the culture wars and clashes over identity politics in the west have arrived in the conservative Gulf states.

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