Concerns over UAE hosting the next World Congress in 2027

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World Federation of the Deaf

Deaf Rainbow UK contacted the British Deaf Association today to share their concerns about the United Arab Emirates winning the votes to host the next World Congress where homosexuality is frowned upon. See Deaf Rainbow UK’s letter below:

To British Deaf Association,

Deaf Rainbow UK, a Deaf LGBTIQA+ registered charity, would like to express their apprehension following the announcement yesterday that the next World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Congress will be held in United Arab Emirates (UAE), where homosexuality is illegal with imprisonment as a punishment, or prosecuted for related offences, such as kissing in public. UAE’s stance on homosexuality restricts LGBTIQA+ citizens’ ability to go about their daily life spontaneously without any boundaries and hinders being treated equally. The restrictions are so tight that LGBTIQA+ citizens are not even permitted to socialise with their peers anywhere, or even to discuss any LGBTIQA+ matters in public. It is also our understanding that the LGBTIQA+ attendees will not be permitted to do a presentation of any kind at the World Congress in UAE.

Firstly, Deaf Rainbow UK charity was shocked by the fact WFD had originally recommended the UAE as a host of the Congress. It was a relief that Nigeria, where homosexuality is also illegal, lost the vote, but we believe UAE should also not have won the vote to host the next WFD Congress where LGBTIQA+ issues can not be addressed, which is very concerning. By permitting UAE to host the World Congress, WFD can be seen as endorsing UAE’s stance on homosexuality which could exacerbate the ongoing implications for the Deaf LGBTIQA+ citizens of UAE and their visitors. This stance goes against WFD’s aims & objectives to improve human rights for Deaf people. Therefore, allowing UAE to host the next World Congress, where it is clear to everyone homosexuality is not accepted, is not acknowledging the human rights of the Deaf LGBTIQA+ citizens and their visitors.

Deaf Rainbow UK feel strongly that as a result of UAE winning the bid to host the next World Congress, the WFD’s ethos of ensuring equality for Deaf people across the world is not being put into practice. This is despite years of their work to promote Deaf people the rights they deserve and so this is unquestionably disappointing. The years of human rights campaigning by WFD has now been thrown into question because of the decision made by the voting members to allow UAE to host the event. Based on WFD’s belief that all Deaf people should be treated equally, Deaf Rainbow UK has to question why WFD are allowing UAE to host the next event. This will deny the Deaf LGBTIAQ+ community an opportunity to stand in front of the congregation at the World Congress purely because of the UAE’s beliefs about gender and sexuality. The WFD are meant to promote human rights for Deaf people across the world, and this should be the case for the citizens, visitors and attendees of all World Congresses.

Deaf Rainbow UK is confident that the members of the UK’s Deaf LGBTIQA+ community would not feel protected if they were to attend the Congress in UAE, despite the statement made that the LGBTIQA+ attendees will be ‘respected’. This is not sufficiently reassuring for them, as there is no guarantee they will not be prosecuted for being a LGBTIQA+ individual if they were to unintentionally say something or act in a way deemed inappropriate by the laws of UAE. Thus trying to behave according to UAE’s laws could put an immense pressure on LGBTIQA+ attendees and not allow them to go about their lives in a way that is ‘normal’ for them.

As the British Deaf Association (BDA) is an associated member of World Federation of the Deaf, Deaf Rainbow UK is putting in a request for the BDA to make an appeal for the board of WFD to revoke the voting decision for UAE to host the next World Congress and for them to find a suitable host – one that would have policies that respect Deaf people from all different backgrounds. Alternatively, could the BDA ask that the WFD board provide a guarantee that the World Congress in UAE will acknowledge LGBTIQA+ individuals and allow them to participate, so that the LGBTIQA+ attendees are fully represented and not excluded?

Deaf Rainbow UK is happy to lend support on the above matter to add strength to the message that the Deaf LGBTIQA+ individuals are to be treated equally to the other attendees.

Thank you.

Paul Welton
Deaf Rainbow UK