Police in the Gulf state of Dubai have arrested 40 men in a crackdown on transvestites.

“Any man or woman who dresses up and behaves like the opposite gender in public will be questioned and legal action will be taken against him or her,” Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai Police Chief, said in a statement on the Dubai Police website.

“The 40 transvestites were referred to the Public Prosecution, which issued an administrative deportation order against them. All of those arrested were visitors and tourists and not residents.

“This is against the UAE’s traditions and social values,” he said.

In May Dahi announced that transvestites caught in public would be arrested as part of a new campaign.

He said “transvestites have been seen of late in public places, including shopping malls.”

He said the campaign under the slogan “Our social values are precious.. let’s protect them”, targets those who “do not respect social values and behave like the opposite sex.”

Dahi called on the Social Affairs Ministry to study the problem and find out the actual reasons behind the increase in transvestites.

“I think studying in a mixed environment is the reason behind the increase in this problem.

“However, there must be a study to find out the actual factors behind the problem,” he said.

Dubai is one of the seven oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

It is unclear if any British men were arrested, though Dubai is a popular destination for UK tourists.

Despite claims that it is the most modern and “Westernised” state in the region, homosexual relations are still considered a crime and punishments range from jail to deportation and death penalty.

Last year two men aged 35 and 18 were sentenced by a Dubai court to fifteen years in prison for raping a 15-year-old Western boy.

One of the men is HIV positive.

Alexander Robert, of French-Swiss nationality, was in the United Arab Emirates last summer when a group of men took him to a desert, threatened him with a knife and repeatedly raped him.

According to Alexander’s mother Veronique Robert, authorities neglected to inform them about the HIV status of one of the rapists in an attempt to hide that AIDS was present in the country.