Rainbow Network "Top tips for travelling to Dubai" guidance

University of Birmingham Rainbow Network advises LGBTQ staff and students to hide their identity when working at new Dubai campus

Last week (1 April 2019), University of Birmingham’s LGBTQ staff Rainbow Network issued to its members a controversial set of “Top tips for travelling to Dubai”. The network expressed misgivings about issuing the guidance but felt they had to do so in order to keep LGBTQ staff and students safe on the University’s controversial new campus.

The guidance offers a range of tips, from altering one’s next of kin details through to changing how they dress and avoiding carrying out academic activities which could be perceived as LGBTQ advocacy.

Top tips for travelling to Dubai” include:

  • If your next of kin is registered as a same sex partner, consider changing this to another family member for the duration of your trip to Dubai and changing it back when you return.
  • If you identify as LGBTQ, try to avoid making this publicly available knowledge on the internet.
  • Try to avoid dressing in a way which is not traditionally associated with your (perceived) gender if you are in public.
  • Do not do anything that may be perceived as a public display of affection, either same sex or opposite sex, even if it is intended to be innocent.
  • If undertaking research, hosting academic discussions, or offering welfare support related to LGBTQ issues and identities, consider carefully whether this may be interpreted as a form of LGBTQ advocacy.

The staff network took the unusual step of issuing the guidance despite expressing serious misgivings over LGBTQ rights on the Dubai campus. In the email to members that accompanied the guidance, the network’s leadership said:

“We must emphasise that we are unhappy about having to produce a document like this given our usual push for LGBTQ inclusion and visibility in the workplace, but in this instance our concern for staff welfare is our top priority.”

The Rainbow Networks vision is of a “workplace where all LGBTQ people feel welcomed, included, and able to reach their potential”.

Screenshot of the University of Birmingham Rainbow Network which accompanied the "Top tips" guidance

A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham UCU union said: “The fact that the network has felt compelled to issue essential safety advice demonstrates how far the Dubai campus fall’s short of the University’s stated commitment to the safety and wellbeing of its LGBTQ staff and students.

“We once again call on the University to enter into meaningful negotiations with the recognised campus trade unions to protect the safety of staff and students on the Dubai campus.”

In November In November 2018, Birmingham UCU members voted unanimously to support an academic boycott of the University of Birmingham’s Dubai campus. Members voted for the academic boycott after the University repeatedly refused to engage with us over serious concerns about staff and student safety, academic freedom and the welfare of the migrant construction workforce that is expected to build the new campus.

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