The new ‘game-changing’ partnership between Qantas and Emirates airlines have sparked concerns for gay tourists travelling on Australia’s premier carrier.
Qantas launched its new partnership with Emirates last weekend, which will involve shifting Qantas’ main overseas hub from Singapore to Dubai for flights to Europe.
The Australian government’s travel advice website, smarttraveller.gov.au, warns travellers that homosexual acts and sex outside of marriage were illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Article 177 of the Dubai Penal Code imposes up to 10 years jail for consensual sodomy.
“Homosexual acts and all kinds of sex outside of marriage are illegal and may lead to severe punishment, including imprisonment and fines,” the website warns.
“De facto relationships and civil unions are not recognised in the UAE and any sexual acts within these relationships are considered to be sex outside of marriage.”
Detained in Dubai, a London-based organisation assisting foreigners requiring legal and practical advice in the UAE, said serious concerns remained about the safety of Australian travellers.
“There are numerous dangers to westerners staying in or transiting through Dubai and Qantas has yet to communicate how it intends to mitigate these,” Detained in Dubai founder Radha Stirling said.
“With the alliance about to launch and thousands more passengers set to pass through Dubai, it’s time Qantas was pressed to respond to these concerns to guarantee the safety of Australian citizens travelling on our national carrier.”
Last year, Liberal Senator Helen Kroger questioned the new deal and whether Australia was putting its business relationship with the UAE ahead of its commitment to human rights.
She raised the house arrests of two Australian business men who had been facing corruption charges since 2009, the treatment of homosexuals and its anti-Israeli policies as human rights concerns.
She also asked whether there would be warnings to gay Australians transiting through Dubai.
Within a section of the Qantas website focused on the Emirates partnership, there is no mention of the anti-gay laws or homosexual tourists, or on its frequently asked questions webpage.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the alliance was one of the most important strategic initiatives ever and would help turn around the carrier’s international performance, according to Fairfax Media.
Emirates CEO Tim Clark said it had been a ‘Herculean task’ to form the alliance over the past few months.