The medical need for sex-correction surgery has been acknowledged by UAE law and an Emirati has just asked to be the pioneer…

This April a task force was set up the Health Authority in Abu Dhabi to work to modernise the UAE medical system, and that they did.

Earlier this month they announced law changes that mean sex correction surgery is now a possibility in the UAE. They also made updates that decrease the criminal liability of doctors: for instance, doctors are no longer forced to resuscitate a patient that is dying in certain instances and they are not legally liable for deaths and incidents in which they are not medically culpable.

Federal Decree No. 4 was approved by the UAE’s President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and it acknowledges gender dysphoria as a medical condition, and according to Al Bayan doctors in the UAE can now perform gender reassignment operations if a person’s sex is unclear, or if their physical features do not match their physiological, psychological and genetic characteristics.

The law also requires that all patients are referred to psychologists to prepare for and discuss their operation. This is the case in many other countries.


This week an Emirati woman made the first application to the courts to be approved for gender reassignment surgery. She says not being able to live as her true gender (male) has caused her anxiety and depression – she has been seeking psychological help since 2012 and a medical committee has recommended she get the surgery according to her lawyer.

The 29-year-old’s lawyer also told Gulf News that, “ever since she was three, the woman felt instead that she is actually a male. She would have an intense desire to have a male body and to be accepted by others as a male and feels her true identity is male.”

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The person’s case will be heard on September 28. Will cases continue to have to be seen in front of the court? That’s not yet clear – we’ll keep you updated. However, once legal precedent is set there may be a chance that people seeking the surgery will no longer have to get their operations legally approved (they will just need medical approval).

This is how the law reads according to Gulf News: “The surgical procedure [or procedures] by which a transgender person’s physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble that of their identified gender is permitted if it is part of a treatment for gender dysphoria in transgender people, as advised by a medical commission to be set up for this purpose.”

Sex change surgery, by which a person with a clear gender identity and matching physical features seeks to change sex, is still banned.


These other legislation shifts should work to attract the best doctors to the UAE…

– In a key move, doctors will now no longer be forced to resuscitate dying patients when at least three doctors have advised against resuscitation and have decided that the patient is suffering from an incurable condition.

– Other areas in which a doctor will now not be liable is when harm to the patient is self-inflicted, when the patients fails to follow medical advice, or when unexpected complications not caused by medical error arise. 

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Photo: Getty Images