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Current Affairs

UAE relaxes Islamic laws

Date: 09 November 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The United Arab Emirates has announced legal reforms relating to personal freedoms that seek to move the country away from its hardline interpretation of Islamic law.

 

Background

The modernisation efforts have been announced before Expo 2020, the mega world event hosted by Dubai that is expected to bring in investments and around 2.5 crore visitors to the country. 

 

Details

  • The overhaul includes changes in laws related to honour killings, alcohol restrictions, cohabitation of unmarried couples, divorce and succession.

  • Previously, under “honour crimes”, male relatives could evade prosecution or get lighter sentences for assaulting women who purportedly brought “dishonour” to the family by acts such as disobeying religious scriptures or promiscuity. Such incidents would now be treated as similar to any other assault.

  • There would be stricter punishments for men who subject women to harassment, including stalking and street harassment. The rape of a minor or someone “with limited mental capacity” will be punished with execution

  • Drinking alcohol has been decriminalised for those above 21 years of age, and penalties for possessing or selling alcoholic beverages without an alcohol licence in authorised areas have been removed. 

  • For couples who were married in their home country but want to get a divorce in the UAE, laws of the country where the marriage took place would apply.

  • As regards succession, in bitterly fought cases, local courts could apply UAE’s Sharia law to divide assets among family members. Now, the law of a person’s citizenship will determine how assets would be divided, unless there is a written will.

  • Previously, a person who survived a suicide attempt could be prosecuted. However, this offence has now been removed and the courts and police are supposed to provide mental health support to vulnerable people.

  • A person who offered aid (such as CPR or first aid) to someone could be held accountable for the latter’s injury or death. This provision has been removed. 

  • Courts have been mandated to provide legal translators for defendants and witnesses who do not speak Arabic.

  • Privacy laws have also been strengthened, and evidence related to alleged indecent acts will now have to be protected and cannot be publicly disclosed.