What you should know about sexual harassment: Dubai and UAE laws

This article discusses all you need to know about sexual harassment in Dubai and UAE and the laws that pertain to them.

sexual harassment in UAE and Dubai

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted and unsolicited attention pressed upon a person regarding their gender. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical acts resulting in the victim feeling uncomfortable and violated.

Types or Forms of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an umbrella term covering all forms of unwelcome attention regarding a person’s gender. It covers the physical, verbal and non-verbal aspects of such unwelcome attention and can take any of the following forms:

  • The harasser makes sexual favours a condition for employing, promoting, or rewarding a person, either explicitly or implicitly.
  • Assaulting the victim sexually.
  • Requesting sexual favours from the victim.
  • Making sexually harassing statements, including crass jokes about sexual acts or a person’s sexual orientation.
  • Initiating or maintaining physical contact with the victim inappropriately.
  • Making unwelcome sexual advances on the victim.
  • Having unseemly conversations about sexual relations, stories, or fantasies in inappropriate places like work, school, and others.
  • Applying pressure on a person to engage with them sexually
  • Acts of indecent exposure, whether of the harasser or the victim
  • Sending unwanted and unsolicited sexually explicit pictures, emails or text messages to the victim.

What is the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault?

There are two critical differences between sexual harassment and sexual assault.

  • Sexual harassment is a broad term that covers all forms of unwelcome attention regarding agenda. In contrast, sexual assault describes any physical, sexual contact or behavior that a person experiences without consent.
  • Sexual harassment typically violates UAE civil laws (a person has the right to go about their business without fearing harassment from any quarter). In contrast, sexual assault violates criminal statutes and is regarded as a criminal act.

Sexual assault happens in the following ways:

  • Non-consensual penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape.
  • Attempting to have non-consensual penetration with the victim.
  • Forcing a person to carry out sexual acts, e.g., oral sex and other sexual acts.
  • Unwanted sexual contact of any kind, e.g., fondling

What should I do when I witness a sexual harassment?

As a witness of a sexual harassment episode, you can do the following:

  • Stand up to the harasser: if you are sure that standing up to the harasser will not put you in harm’s way and may put a stop to the indecent act, please do so. However, you must be absolutely sure that taking on the harasser will not escalate the situation nor put you and the person being troubled or harassed in an untenable position.
  • Cause a distraction: if you feel that a direct approach may be unsuitable for the situation, you may stop the incident by causing a distraction and focusing attention on yourself instead of the person being troubled and harassed. You may do this by asking a question, starting an unrelated conversation, or finding a reason to remove the person being hurt or harassed from the environment.
  • Get someone else to intervene: you may inform a supervisor, another colleague, or a person whose job is to handle such situations.
  • Provide a shoulder on which to lean: if you cannot intervene while the harassment is going on, you can still support the victim by acknowledging their hurt, empathizing with them, and providing the support they need.
  • Keep a record of the incident: this helps you accurately recall the harassment and provide evidence should the victim decide to file a complaint with the relevant authorities.

UAE Laws on Sexual Harassment

UAE laws on sexual harassment can be found in the Penal code: Federal Law Number 3 of 1987. Articles 358 and 359 of this law details the law’s definition of sexual harassment and the applicable punishments.

In times past, UAE and Dubai had considered “sexual harassment” a crime against women and had laws drafted in that light. However, the term was recently broadened to include men as victims, and recent changes in the law reflect this new position (Law Number 15 of 2020). So male and female victims of sexual harassment are now treated equally.

The amendment expanded the legal definition of sexual harassment to include repetitively harassing actions, words or even signs. It also includes actions targeted at coaxing the recipient into responding to the harasser’s sexual desires or those of another person. Additionally, the amendment introduced stiffer penalties for sexual harassment.

Punishment and Penalty on Sexual Harassment

Articles 358 and 359 of the Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 of the UAE penal code outlines the punishments and penalties for sexual harassment.

Article 358 states the following:

  • If a person publicly or openly commits a disgraceful or indecent act, they will be in detention for at least six months.
  • If a person performs an unwelcoming or disgraceful act against a girl below 15 years old, whether publicly or privately, they will be imprisoned for at least one year

Article 359 states the following:

  • If a person publicly disgraces a woman by words or deeds, they will be imprisoned for no more than two years and pay a maximum fine of 10,000 dirhams.
  • If a man disguises himself in a woman’s clothing and enters a public place reserved for women, they will be imprisoned for no more than two years and pay a fine of 10,000 dirhams. Furthermore, if the man commits a crime while garbed as a woman, this will be considered an aggravating circumstance.

However, the amended laws now state the following punishments for sexual harassment:

  • Anybody who publicly molests a female either by words or actions is liable for a maximum of two years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 dirhams, or either. This provision also covers catcalling and wolf-whistling.
  • Anyone that encourages or incites acts of lewdness or debauchery is considered to have committed a crime, and the penalty is up to six months in prison and a fine of 100,000 dirhams, or either.
  • Anyone who appeals, sings, yells, or makes immoral or obscene speeches is also considered to have committed a crime. The penalty is a maximum prison term of one month and a fine of 100,000 dirhams, or either.

What are my rights?

As a citizen of Dubai and UAE, you have the following rights:

  • The right to work and live in a safe and sexual harassment-free environment
  • The right to knowledge of the laws and policies regarding sexual harassment
  • The right to talk about and speak out against sexual harassment
  • The right to report the harassment to the relevant authority
  • The right to testify as a witness or participate in an investigation

Procedure to file a complaint

If you or your loved one has been a victim of sexual harassment, follow the procedures below to file a complaint:

  • Get in touch with a sexual harassment lawyer in Dubai
  • With your lawyer, go to the nearest police station and complain about the harassment. If you do not feel comfortable walking into a police station to report the harassment, you may call the Dubai police 24-hour hotline for reporting cases of sexual abuse on 042661228.
  • Be sure to give accurate reporting of the incident and the details of the harasser.
  • Go with every evidence you can find to support your complaint
  • Once you have registered the complaint, the public prosecutor’s office will initiate an investigation into the matter.
  • The public prosecutor will draft a criminal report regarding the issue and then pass the file to the criminal court for a verdict

Sexual Harassment Cases We Can Handle in our Law Firms

In our law firms, we can handle all forms of sexual harassment cases, including:

  • Hostile work environment
  • Quid pro quo
  • Unwelcome request for sex
  • Sexism in the workplace
  • Sexual bribery
  • Sexual gift-giving at work
  • Sexual harassment by a supervisor
  • Workplace sexual coercion
  • Non-employee sexual harassment
  • Gay and lesbian sexual harassment
  • Sexual harassment at off-site events
  • Stalking in the workplace
  • Criminal sexual conduct
  • Sexual joking
  • Co-worker sexual harassment
  • Sexual orientation harassment
  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Same-sex sexual harassment
  • Sexual harassment at office holiday parties
  • Sexual harassment by the CEO
  • Sexual harassment by a manager
  • Sexual harassment by the owner
  • Online sexual harassment
  • Fashion industry sexual assault
  • Pornography and offensive pictures at work

How Can a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Help Your Case?

A sexual harassment lawyer helps your case by ensuring that things progress as smoothly as possible. They ensure that you are not overwhelmed by the details of filing a complaint and seeking action against the party that harassed you. Additionally, they help ensure that you file your claim within the proper time limit dictated by the law so that you get justice for your hurt.

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