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Amazon hides LGBTQ+ products in United Arab Emirates after caving to government threats

Amelia Hansford June 30, 2022
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Amazon has caved to pressure from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), restricting access to LGBTQ-related products on its localised site in the country.

After mounting pressure by the UAE government to comply with its anti-LGBTQ+ laws under the threat of penalties, the company restricted over 150 queer-related search phrases, according to documents discovered by The New York Times.

Targeted words such as “LGBTQ”, “pride”, and “closeted gay” were restricted outright, while specific products like flags, books, chest binders and more have been hidden from the site.

An Amazon spokesperson told The New York Times: “As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected.

“With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operated.”

UAE is one of the 71 (according to Human Dignity Trust) countries that continue to ban homosexuality.

The country is notorious for imposing regulations that restrict LGBTQ+ freedom of expression. It also forbids all sexual activity outside of different-sex marriage, with penalties including imprisonment for a minimum of one year. The country’s human rights law, which states that all “persons shall be equal before the law” does not extend to illegal sexual orientations or gender identities.

Amazon first brought its services to the UAE in 2017 after acquiring Dubai-based e-commerce site Souq.com for $580 million. It has planned to deploy several cloud computing centres in the country this year.

The disparity between Amazon’s policy on preserving LGBTQ+ autonomy and its actions up to and including this one has raised eyebrows across the board.

In June, several employees took to a Pride event in Seattle earlier this month to stage a “die-in” protest against the company’s refusal to stop selling anti-trans books.

The worker-led group, known as No Hate at Amazon, called for the company to discontinue the sale of titles including Johnny the Walrus, written by self-described theocratic fascist Matt Walsh.

Earlier in June, Saudi Arabian officials seized several rainbow toys such as hair clips, hats, and pencil cases after authorities claimed they “contradict the Islamic faith and public morals”.

More: Amazon, united arab emirates

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