Amazon blocks LGBT products in UAE, says it ‘must comply with local laws’

Enlarge / The flag of the United Arab Emirates.

Getty Images | Tim de Waele

Amazon has started blocking LGBT-related products and search results in the United Arab Emirates to comply with a request from the country’s government, which prohibits homosexuality.

The new restrictions are set out in internal Amazon documents, according to The New York Times. “The Emirati government has given Amazon until Friday to comply or face penalties, according to the documents. It was unclear what those penalties would be,” the NYT article said.

Amazon’s “Restricted Products Team” removed individual product listings “and a team that manages the company’s search capabilities masked results for more than 150 keywords,” the NYT wrote. Searches for terms such as ‘lgbtq’, ‘pride’, ‘closed gay’, ‘transgender flag’, ‘queer pin’ and ‘lesbian breast pin’ now yield no results in the UAE. Discontinued products include books such as My lesbian experience with loneliness by Nagata Kabi, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, and bad feminist by Roxanne Gay.

Amazon: “We must respect local laws”

We asked Amazon for more details about the restrictions, but the company only confirmed that it had restricted search results on the Amazon.ae store to comply with local laws. Amazon has had a presence in the United Arab Emirates since 2017, when it acquired e-commerce site SOUQ.com.

“As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people should be protected,” Amazon said in a statement provided to Ars and d. other media outlets. “With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate.”

As a travel advisory from the US State Department puts it, “consensual same-sex sex is criminalized in the UAE,” with potential penalties including fines and jail time. “According to interpretations of Sharia, the penalty could include the death penalty,” the State Department said. “Although the United States Embassy and the United States Consulate General are not aware of any recent arrests or prosecutions for such activities, they remain illegal. “

In addition to illegal same-sex relationships, “expressing support for LGBT rights could also be considered an offence” in the UAE, the BBC wrote.

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