UAE laws female expats need to know

Published:  15 Aug at 6 PM
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Tagged: Moving, Visas, UAE
Many women moving to the UAE either for work or as trailing spouses are confused as to their rights and obligations in UAE law.

Being male and moving to the UAE is tricky enough as regards laws, cultural aspects and correct behaviour patterns, but for women it’s a potential nightmare. Former freedoms and legal entitlements are thrown out of the window the moment females set foot on Arab soil, with immediate adjustment necessary to avoid unpleasant situations.

One obviously sensitive topic in this Islamic region is drinking, regarded by Muslims as a frowned-upon crime, especially when it’s women who commit it. Non-Muslims are allowed to request permits allowing alcohol consumption in private, but the quantity is only for personal use, with drinking alcohol in public places totally illegal. The Western booze culture is looked down on in the UAE, and going along with the strict local laws is a must.

One shock felt by many females arriving in the emirates is cuased by a law stating living in an unmarried state with a man is considered a serious crime. Kissing and petting in public is also a crime but, if you and your partner are caught living together, a three-year stint in a UAE prison and deportation when you’re let out will be the result. If you’ve a child with your partner, this is also considered a serious offence.

Divorce is a tricky subject in the UAE, especially if you’re married to an Emirati, when it’s simply up to him to say ‘I divorce you’ and you’re out. He’ll have to go to the trouble of getting an official divorce granted by the state, but it’s not difficult. Females, of course, are more limited as regards options should they want to divorce their spouse. If he abandons you, doesn’t support you financially or is addicted to domestic violence, you’ll have a good case for a ‘Khulla’, thus nullifying the marriage and discarding the dowry paid by the husband at the point of nuptials. Basically, it’s probably better to stay single.

Custody of children is another legal headache, as in UAE law the roles of custodian and guardian are completely separate. Guardians are expected to take on financial responsibilities, whilst custodians are left with the task of bringing up the children. Joint custody is a total no-no, although traditional cultural mores concerning gender usually allow the mother custody, leaving the father to pick up the bills. Serious problems can occur should the mother wish to take her child/children back to her home country.
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