Super high-flying lawyer and mama of 2, Alexandra Tribe shares the rules we all have to follow in Dubai..
There are many misconceptions about the way of life in the UAE. However in a country which is culturally different to the environment in which many of us expats grew up in, it is important to be aware of the laws that apply to us here. The UAE laws apply to all of us, wherever we are from. In this simple guide, I have included what I feel are the most important laws that we should be aware of, as breach of some can have serious repercussions.
It is a criminal offence to have a sexual relationship with another individual if you are married. The penalty is imprisoned for “not less than a year” and then deportation back to your home country.
It is a criminal offence to live with your partner if you are not married. If found to be doing so, you may be arrested, imprisoned and then deported.
3. Meeting with a ‘foreign’ man in a private place
As a woman in the UAE, it is a ‘crime of honour’ to be alone with a man other than your husband in a private place. Whether the meeting is platonic or not, under Sharia law it is deemed to be the same level of offence as committing adultery and can lead to the same penalties.
For a UAE national, it is a capital offence to have a sexual relationship with someone who is the same gender as you. As an expat, the penalty is likely to consist of being arrested, imprisoned and then deported.
5. Suicide / attempted suicide
It is a criminal offence to commit, or attempt to commit suicide. Under Sharia law, only God (Allah) has the right to take a life and therefore if the police are made aware of an attempted suicide, you will be arrested and risk fines or imprisonment.
It is a criminal offence to have an abortion in the UAE. Abortion carries a sentence of 1-5 years in prison and/or a large fine, unless the mother’s life would be at risk by the birth.
While you can drink alcohol in some parts of the UAE, you cannot in others, for instance Sharjah is a dry Emirate. However, it is a criminal offence to be drunk or intoxicated in the whole of the UAE and you will be fined if found to be so. If you buy or drink without an alcohol licence, then you may be fined up to AED 2,000 or be imprisoned for 1-6 months. Muslims, whether residents or tourists, are not allowed an alcohol licence and it is illegal for them to drink alcohol at all. There is a zero tolerance to drink-driving and as a punishment, you will be either fined or imprisoned. It should be noted that the level of punishment depends on which Emirate you are caught in. For example, penalties may be more severe in Sharjah.
There is a zero tolerance policy to drug taking / supplying in the UAE. As a penalty, you will be arrested, imprisoned and then deported. This may include some drugs which are available to purchase in a pharmacy in England. A list of banned substances can be found here.
It is a criminal offence to use social media or other forms of the internet to defame or blackmail people. The penalty can be a fine of up to AED 5,000,000 followed by imprisonment and deportation.
It is a criminal offence to commit fraud in the UAE. As a punishment you will either be fined or imprisoned for up to 3 years and/or deported.
11. Bouncing cheques
It is a criminal offence in the UAE for a cheque to bounce, whether it is intentional or unintentional. Post-dated cheques are frequently used in the UAE as a form of security for rent, paying bills etc. Keep a record of post dated cheques and be careful to ensure that there are funds in your account to honour the cheques when cashed. Penalties for a bounced cheque would be either a fine or imprisonment for 1 month to 3 years.
12. Traffic offences
It is a criminal offence to drive without a valid licence and if caught without one you will be fined. It is also an offence to exceed the speed limit on the roads. The penalty will either be a fine or imprisonment depending on how fast you were speeding. You will get black points on your licence and if you obtain more than 12 black points in a year then your licence may be revoked.
13. General behaviour and gesticulating in public
It is a public offence to swear using your hands or words in public, including when driving. The penalty depends on the nature of the crime as you may be fined, imprisoned for up to six months or even deported.
14. Public displays of affection
According to UAE Federal Law, any displays of affection in public places between couples, whether married or not, are against the local culture. Even kissing in public constitutes a violation of the law and is liable to a punishment of imprisonment and / or deportation.
15. Disturbing the peace
Playing loud music and dancing is forbidden in public places and the penalty may be a fine. Be respectful with parties in your own home and mindful of disturbing neighbours.
16. Capturing videos or photographs without permission
Capturing videos or photographs without permission and/or circulating them may be seen as a violation of one’s personal privacy. Such offences can be punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years and/or a fine. Similarly, taking photos in restricted areas can result in one to three months in jail or fine of up to AED 5,000. Further, the Court has discretionary powers to add a deportation order to the sentence.
Although it is not a criminal offence, expatriates should also be respectful of how they dress, and women in particular should cover up and protect their modesty. For instance, in certain places such as malls, it is advisable to keep shoulders and knees covered to avoid offending anyone.
In respect of all crimes in the UAE, the court has the discretionary power to add deportation to a jail sentence or to replace a jail sentence with only deportation as per Article 121 of the Penal Code.
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