The United Arab Emirates has reportedly relaxed a number of restrictions pertaining to one’s personal freedom in the country.The Gulf nations are in a mode of revamping their laws and social norms to project an image of a freer land that helps promote tourism.
The United Arab Emirates announced on Saturday a major overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws with landmark changes such as allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate and loosening alcohol restrictions, reports AL Jazeera.
The UAE government approved the amendments to some of the provisions in the Personal Status Law, the Civil Transactions Law, the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Law, “within the framework of efforts to develop the legislative environment in a country, and to ensure compatibility with multiculturalism”.
Among other changes that it promises to usher in the criminalisation of the so-called (dis) “honour killings”, a tribal custom that permits a male relative to escape legal trial despite assaulting a woman seen as dishonouring the family.
The UAE government said the legal reforms were part of efforts to improve legislation and the investment climate in the country, as well as to consolidate “tolerance principles”.
Harassing a woman or stalking her will also be met with harsh punishment. The government also reportedly recognised that men, too, could be victims of harassment. Raping a minor or a person with mental illness will be executed, reported The National.
Suicide or attempt to suicide has been decriminalised. The person would be ensured mental-health support by the police or the court. Earlier, a person who survived the suicide would be prosecuted. Abetment to suicide or providing assistance to take another person’s life will face jail.
Individuals who help persons in an emergency health situation will not be punished, reported The National. Earlier, those who provided aid to a person in need, either by administering first aid or CPR, were held accountable for death or injury of that person.
Alcohol consumption and its possession without an individual licence has been decriminalised. Although several hotels have licenses where people could enjoy a drink, as per the earlier rules an individual needed a license to consume liquor in their homes. The licence was mandatory to purchase or transport alcohol. Abu Dhabi ended this system in September. Persons who drink, possess or sell alcoholic beverages, without an alcohol licence, will not face any penalties. However, the person must be 21 years and above, and must be consumed in private or authorised places. The new law will also apply to citizens of the UAE.
In some relief to unmarried couples, cohabitation will no longer be considered a crime. Although officials usually ignore such practices among unmarried couples or unrelated individuals, the new reform will give them legal immunity.
In a country where expatriates outnumber citizens nearly nine to one, the amendments will permit foreigners to avoid Islamic Shariah courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance. The amendments to the Personal Status and the Civil Transactions laws will also allow non-citizens to choose the law relating to issues such as inheritance.
As far as the family law cases involving expatriates are concerned, The National reported that the laws of the person’s country of origin can be used for divorces and inheritance, and that the Islamic laws would be rarely applied.
In a country where expatriates outnumber citizens nearly nine to one, the amendments will permit foreigners to avoid Islamic Shariah courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance.
The reforms come as the UAE gets ready to host the high-stakes World Expo. The event is planned to bring a flurry of commercial activity and some 25 million visitors to the country, after it was pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.