Do Women have rights in the UAE?

26 Apr, 2020

It is 2020, and yet some people around the globe are still wondering about the women’s status in UAE: “Are they allowed to marry whoever they want?”“Does a non-Muslim woman have to convert to marry a Muslim man?” , “What will happen to a women’s children if she divorces her husband?” etc. The list goes on, and people are often getting frustrated when searching the answers to such questions. Sharia regulations are often misunderstood, and a random google search about the questions outlined above can give you quite terrifying answers.

UAE’s legal framework finds its pillars in the Islamic Sharia Regulations. However, as a well-established jurisdiction, UAE has chosen to codify and comprise the guiding Sharia principles in a series of different codes: civil code, criminal code, civil procedure code, and criminal procedure code. Nevertheless, there are numerous laws regulating special matters.

The fear of the unknown, mixed with a lot of dishonourable interpretations of the Islamic regulations and the Arab world, creates the perfect conditions for everyone to ignore the fact that women do have rights in Muslim countries, they are allowed to choose for themselves, to work along with the man and to be part of the community they are living within.

What are the laws outlining women’s rights?

The constitution of the UAE sets out in  Chapter No.2, Article no. 2, that “equality, social justice, the provision of safety and security and equality of opportunity for all citizens shall be the bases of the community. Mutual co-operation and respect shall be a firm bond between them”, without distinguishing between men and women and underlying that all UAE citizens have equal rights.

Furthermore, Article no.16 of the same chapter, states that the whole society shall be held liable for protecting childhood and motherhood. This is one of the principles lying at the heart of the society and community itself, which should protect and support motherhood.

There are three other major laws, regarding the family matters in the UAE: Federal Law No. 28 of 2005, also called Personal Status Law, Federal Law No. 11 of 1992, the Civil Procedure Code and Federal Law No. 5 of 1985, Civil Transactions Code.

In matters regarding marriage, divorce, or succession, the leading regulation used will be the Personal Status Law, UAE, having set special courts dealing with such affairs. If the Personal Status Law does not cover certain aspects, such as prenuptial agreements, for example, other laws will find applicability, in the given example, the Civil Transaction Code.

Is the Personal Status law applicable to Muslims only?

No. Personal Status Law sets regulations for all Muslims and Non-Muslim Citizens and Expats living in the UAE.

For those non-Muslim residents who do not wish to have Sharia regulations enforced upon their personal affairs, such as marriage and divorce, the UAE Personal status law allows them to opt-out of sharia regulations.

Article no. 1 of the Personal Status Law explicitly stipulates that the law will apply to all UAE citizens, except in the case where non-Muslim citizens “have special rules relating to their community or confession.”

Non-Emiratis (people having another citizenship, other than the UAE one) are allowed to ask for the law of their home country to apply. If they do not request it or if the law is unclear or comprises provision which comes in contradiction with the Personal Status Law, priority will be given to UAE’s regulation.

Is UAE a signatory to any international treaties protecting women’s rights?

Women’s rights are human rights, as well. UAE recognizes women’s crucial contribution to the development of its society and country by empowering them with the tools required to access any position they would wish to have. Women can hold any civic or political position in the UAE.

At the moment of speaking UAE is a signatory of several international treaties, protecting human and women’s rights as follows:

  • Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2004)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (1974)
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1997)
  • Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2004)
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (2010
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In the end, women do have rights in the UAE and as per the Sharia regulations. You must start reading and ask the right question to the right person to get the correct answer.

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