Domestic Violence, Assault and Sexual Abuse in the UAE

What is Assault?

Assault can be defined as the “unlawful application of force to the person of another”. This type of crime is often referred to as an act of violence but does not necessarily involve injury. 

Under UAE laws, physical contact or threats are considered assault, and all forms are under penal code articles 333 to 343.

There are three types of assault to be aware of when discussing this topic: intentional, negligent, and self-defence.

  • Intentional assault occurs when there is an intention to cause a specific injury to a person without legal justification or excuse.
  • Negligent assault occurs when a person causes injury to another person by neglecting the necessary and fair care that a reasonable person would use.
  • Self-defence can be used as a defense when a person is charged with assault in cases where they have used more force than was reasonably required to prevent an injury or loss.
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Forms of Assault

Assault with a deadly weapon: Includes the use of a weapon or object that can be used to severely injure another person. The penalty for this type of assault is imprisonment and the possible requirement to pay blood money under Muslim law.

  • Assault with the intent to murder: This occurs when an individual attempts to kill someone else, but fails in their attempt. It also applies when an individual’s actions make it likely for someone to die as a result of those actions. This type of assault carries the penalty of imprisonment and can include paying blood money under Muslim law.
  • Assault that results in death: When an individual causes another person’s death due to their attack, they can be charged with this misdemeanor which includes the payment of blood money.
  • Aggravated Battery: This applies when an individual intentionally causes severe injuries to another person, or if the injuries are disfiguring or likely to cause death.
  • Assaults with Battery: This applies if an individual intends to cause physical harm, but not with the same degree of severity as in an aggravated battery.
  • Battery: When an individual intentionally makes contact with another person in a harmful or offensive manner without consent is punishable by imprisonment and can include paying blood money under Muslim law.
  • Sexual Assault and Battery: Sexual assault, similar to a battery, is the intentional offensive or harmful touching that is sexual in nature.
  • Domestic Assault and Battery: This crime involves verbal threat and physical force against another person to perform sexual acts without consent.

Violent Crimes in Dubai

The penalties in place for assault vary widely depending on the nature of the crime. The severity of a criminal offense is judged by the damage caused and whether or not it was premeditated. 

Dubai has a zero-tolerance policy against violent crimes in an attempt to educate residents on their effect on UAE society. As such, the penalties for such crimes are harsher than those given to those who commit assault as a result of personal disputes.

In addition to assault, there are a number of other offenses that can be considered violent crimes. These include:

  • Murder – To kill someone
  • Terrorism – this includes the use of violence against the State, instilling fear in individuals, and inciting violence against others.
  • Kidnapping – this also applies if a person is falsely imprisoned, as well as the abduction of an individual.
  • Violating individuals’ freedom – this includes illegally entering someone’s home or car and forcing them to leave their family or country.
  • Burglary – breaking into a residence with the intent to steal from those living there is considered a violent crime with a strict jail sentence attached under the prevailing laws.
  • Rape – which can be considered an act of violence due to its nature of forcing another individual to participate against their will. The punishment for rape is imprisonment and/or fine depending on whether or not the victim was a free person or a slave at the time.
  • Drug Trafficking – this offence carries mandatory prison time and can involve the payment of a significant sum either in the form of a fine or penalty.

Until recently, when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) made a series of legal changes, a man could ‘discipline’ his wife and children without any legal consequences, as long as there were no physical marks. 

Despite criticism by international and local human rights groups, UAE has made progressive steps in its approach to domestic violence, especially with the passing of the Family Protection Policy in 2019.

The Policy specifically recognizes mental and emotional abuse as major components of domestic violence. It broadens the definition to encompass any psychological harm stemming from aggression or threats by a family member against another. This is a key expansion beyond just physical injury. Essentially, the Policy breaks down domestic violence into six forms, including:

  1. Physical abuse – causing any bodily injury or trauma even if there are no marks left
  2. Psychological/emotional abuse – any act that causes emotional anguish to a victim
  3. Verbal abuse – Saying something which is nasty or hurtful to the other person
  4. Sexual abuse – any act that constitutes sexual assault or harassment of a victim
  5. Negligence – The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way.
  6. Economic or financial abuse – any act meant to harm a victim by depriving them of their right or freedom to dispose of their possessions.

While the new laws have not been spared from criticism, especially as they borrow heavily from Islamic Sharia Law, they are a step in the right direction. For example, in a domestic violence situation, it is now possible to get a restraining order against an abusive spouse or relative. 

Previously, domestic violence offenders had access to their victims and, in most cases, would intimidate and threaten them even after a conviction. False Accusation cases can also arise in alleged violent crimes, where the accused may claim innocence and wrongful allegations.

Punishment & Penalty For Domestic Violence In The UAE

In addition to existing penalties, the new laws have instituted specific punishments for domestic violence and sexual abuse offenders. According to Article 9 (1) of UAE’s Federal Law No.10 of 2019 (Protection from Domestic Violence), a domestic violence offender shall be subject to;

  • a jail sentence of up to six months, and/or
  • a fine of up to Dh5,000

Anyone found guilty of a second offense shall be subject to twice the penalty. Additionally, anyone who violates or breaches a restraining order shall be subject to;

  • three-month imprisonment, and/or
  • a fine of between Dh1000 and Dh10,000

Where the breach involves violence, the court is at liberty to double the penalty. The law allows a prosecutor, either on their own accord or at the request of the victim, to issue a 30-day restraining order. 

The order can be extended twice, after which the victim must petition the court for an additional extension. A third extension can last up to six months. The law allows up to seven days for either the victim or the offender to petition against a restraining order after its issuance.

Sexual Abuse Reporting Challenges In The UAE

Despite taking significant steps to help or combat domestic violence and sexual abuse, including being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of any form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UAE still lacks clear regulations on reporting domestic violence, especially sexual abuse incidences. This makes it crucial for victims to know how to file sexual harassment complaints appropriately and effectively.

Even though UAE federal laws severely punish rape and sexual assault offenders, there exists a reporting and investigation gap with the law placing a heavy burden of proof on the victim. 

In addition, the reporting and investigation gap puts women at risk of being charged with illicit sex when raped or sexually assaulted.

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UAE Ensuring The Safety Of Women

Human rights groups blame some provisions in the Sharia Law for the ‘discrimination’ against women, considering the UAE’s laws on domestic violence have their foundations on Sharia. 

Despite the complexities and controversies surrounding its laws, the UAE has taken commendable steps towards reducing domestic violence and sexual abuse cases. 

However, the UAE government still has a lot to do to ensure the safety of women and other vulnerable groups, including children, concerning domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Hire An Emirati Advocate In UAE (Dubai And Abu Dhabi)

We handle all your legal needs in relation to domestic violence in the UAE. We have a legal consultant team of the best criminal lawyers in Dubai to help you with your legal issues, including domestic violence and sexual abuse in the UAE.

You want to hire a lawyer, no matter the situation. Even if you believe yourself to be innocent, hiring a professional lawyer in UAE will ensure the best outcome. 

In fact, in many cases, hiring a lawyer who deals with domestic violence and sexual abuse cases regularly is the best option. Find someone who specializes in similar charges and let them do the heavy lifting.

Having an experienced professional representing you makes all the difference in court. They will know how to best defend you against the charges and can ensure that your rights are upheld throughout the entire trial process. There are a number of factors that go into a successful verdict, and the expertise of a clever legal representative can help you achieve what might otherwise seem impossible.

We have a comprehensive knowledge of the UAE family protection policy, UAE law on domestic violence, and the rights of women and children. Get in touch with us today for legal advice and consultation for domestic violence crime before it is too late. 

For urgent Calls +971506531334 +971558018669

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