Punishments for Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse in the UAE
Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse in the UAE
Until recently, when the United Arab Emirate (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 broadens the definition of domestic violence to encompass any abuse, aggression, or threat by a family member directed at another family member that causes physical or psychological injury. Essentially, the Policy breaks down domestic violence into six forms, including:
- Physical abuse – causing any bodily injury or trauma even if there are no marks left
- Psychological/emotional abuse – any act that causes emotional anguish to a victim
- Verbal abuse – Saying something which is nasty or hurtful to the other person
- Sexual abuse – any act that constitutes sexual assault or harassment of a victim
- Negligence – The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way.
- 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.
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.
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.
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)
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