Sexual Harassment and Assault Laws in the UAE

Sexual harassment and assault are treated as serious crimes under UAE law. The UAE Penal Code criminalizes all forms of sexual assault, including rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and sexual harassment. Article 354 specifically prohibits indecent assault and defines it broadly to cover any act violating a person’s modesty through sexual or obscene actions. While consensual sexual relations outside of marriage are not explicitly illegal under the Penal Code, they could potentially fall under adultery laws depending on the marital status of those involved. The penalties for sexual crimes range from imprisonment and fines to harsh punishments like flogging, though capital punishment is rarely applied for these offenses. The UAE has taken steps in recent years to strengthen laws protecting victims and increasing punishments for perpetrators of sexual crimes.

What constitutes sexual harassment under UAE laws?

Under UAE law, sexual harassment is broadly defined to cover a wide range of unwanted verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The UAE Penal Code does not provide an exhaustive list of acts that constitute sexual harassment, but it prohibits any act that violates a person’s modesty through sexual behavior or obscene actions.

Sexual harassment can take many forms, including inappropriate touching, sending lewd messages or images, making unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, and engaging in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. The key factor is that the conduct is unwanted and offensive to the recipient.

Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment under UAE law. The law also covers harassment in various contexts, including the workplace, educational institutions, public spaces, and online or through electronic communications. Employers and organizations have a legal obligation to take reasonable measures to prevent and address sexual harassment.

What are the laws for different forms of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can take many different forms, from physical acts to verbal misconduct to online/electronic offenses. The UAE has specific laws that address and penalize various types of sexual harassment behaviors. Here is an overview of the relevant laws and penalties:

Form of Sexual HarassmentRelevant Law
Physical Sexual Harassment (inappropriate touching, groping, etc.)Federal Decree-Law No. 6 of 2021
Verbal/Non-physical Harassment (lewd comments, advances, requests, stalking)Federal Decree-Law No. 6 of 2021
Online/Electronic Sexual Harassment (sending explicit messages, images, etc.)Article 21 of Cybercrime Law
Sexual Harassment in the WorkplaceArticle 359, UAE Labor Law
Sexual Harassment in Educational InstitutionsPolicies of Ministry of Education
Public Sexual Harassment (obscene gestures, exposure, etc.)Article 358 (Shameful Acts)

As demonstrated in the table, the UAE has a comprehensive legal framework in place to criminalize and punish all forms of sexual harassment. Both individuals and organizations can be held accountable for sexual harassment under UAE law. Employers and institutions may also have their own internal policies and disciplinary measures

What are the Punishments for sexual harassment in the UAE?

  1. Physical Sexual Harassment
  • Under Federal Decree-Law No. 6 of 2021
  • Penalties: Minimum 1 year imprisonment and/or minimum AED 10,000 fine
  • Covers acts like inappropriate touching, groping, etc.
  1. Verbal/Non-Physical Harassment
  • Under Federal Decree-Law No. 6 of 2021
  • Penalties: Minimum 1 year imprisonment and/or minimum AED 10,000 fine
  • Includes lewd comments, unwanted advances, requests for sexual favors, stalking
  1. Online/Electronic Sexual Harassment
  • Covered under Article 21 of the Cybercrime Law
  • Penalties: Imprisonment and/or fines depending on severity
  • Applies to sending explicit messages, images, content through digital means
  1. Workplace Sexual Harassment
  • Punishable under Article 359 of the UAE Labor Law
  • Penalties: Disciplinary action like termination, fines
  • Employers must have anti-harassment policies
  1. Educational Institution Sexual Harassment
  • Governed by Ministry of Education policies
  • Penalties: Disciplinary action, potential criminal charges under Federal Decree-Law No. 6 of 2021
  1. Public Sexual Harassment
  • Falls under Article 358 (Shameful Acts) of Penal Code
  • Penalties: Up to 6 months imprisonment and/or fines
  • Covers acts like obscene gestures, public exposure, etc.

How can victims of sexual harassment file a report in UAE?

  1. Seek Medical Attention (if needed)
  • If the harassment involved physical or sexual assault, seek medical care immediately
  • Get documented evidence of any injuries
  1. Gather Evidence
  • Keep any electronic evidence like texts, emails, photos, or videos
  • Note down details like date, time, location, witnesses
  • Preserve any physical evidence like clothing worn during the incident
  1. Report to Authorities
  • File a report at the nearest police station
  • You can also call the police hotline or use smart police station kiosks
  • Provide a detailed statement of the harassment with all evidence
  1. Contact Support Services
  • Reach out to support hotlines or victim assistance organizations
  • They can provide legal guidance, counseling, safe accommodation if needed
  1. Report to Employer (if workplace harassment)
  • Follow your company’s grievance redressal process
  • Meet HR/management and submit a written complaint with evidence
  • Employers have a duty to investigate and take action
  1. Follow Up on Case Progress
  • Provide any additional information/evidence requested by authorities
  • Ensure you receive updates on the investigation status
  • Hire a lawyer to represent you, if required

By following these steps, victims in the UAE can formally report incidents of sexual harassment and get access to legal remedies and support services.

What Is The Difference Between Sexual Harassment And Sexual Assault?

CriteriaSexual HarassmentSexual Assault
DefinitionUnwanted verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile environment.Any sexual act or behavior carried out without the consent of the victim, involving physical contact or violation.
Types of ActsInappropriate comments, gestures, requests for favors, sending explicit content, inappropriate touching.Groping, fondling, rape, attempted rape, forced sexual acts.
Physical ContactNot necessarily involved, can be verbal/non-physical harassment.Physical sexual contact or violation is involved.
ConsentConduct is unwanted and offensive to the victim, no consent.Lack of consent from the victim.
Legal ProvisionProhibited under UAE laws like Penal Code, Labor Law, Cybercrime Law.Criminalized as sexual assault/rape under UAE Penal Code.
PenaltiesFines, imprisonment, disciplinary action depending on severity.Stringent penalties including longer imprisonment terms.

The key difference is that sexual harassment covers a range of unwanted behaviors creating a hostile environment, while sexual assault involves physical sexual acts or contact without consent. Both are illegal under UAE laws but sexual assault is considered a more severe offense.

What are the laws on sexual assault in the UAE?

The UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 (the Penal Code) clearly defines and criminalizes various forms of sexual assault. Article 354 prohibits indecent assault, which covers any act violating a person’s modesty through sexual or obscene actions, including unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature. Article 355 deals with the crime of rape, defined as having non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person through violence, threat, or deception. This applies regardless of gender or marital status.

Article 356 prohibits other forced sexual acts like sodomy, oral sex, or using objects for sexual violation when committed through violence, threat, or deception. Article 357 criminalizes the seduction or enticement of minors for the purpose of committing indecent acts. The penalties for sexual assault crimes under the Penal Code primarily involve imprisonment and fines, with the severities varying based on factors like the specific offense, use of violence/threats, and if the victim was a minor. In some cases, deportation may also be a punishment for expatriate offenders.

The UAE takes a strict legal stance against all forms of sexual crimes, aiming to protect victims while ensuring stringent consequences for perpetrators through this legal framework defined in the Penal Code.

How does the UAE law categorize different types of sexual assault?

The UAE Penal Code categorizes different types of sexual assault as follows:

Type of Sexual AssaultLegal Definition
Indecent AssaultAny act violating a person’s modesty through sexual or obscene actions, including unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature.
RapeHaving non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person through violence, threat, or deception.
Forced Sexual ActsSodomy, oral sex, or using objects for sexual violation committed through violence, threat, or deception.
Sexual Assault on MinorsSeducing or enticing minors for the purpose of committing indecent acts.
Aggravated Sexual AssaultSexual assault involving additional factors like physical injury, multiple perpetrators, or other aggravating circumstances.

The categorization is based on the specific nature of the sexual act, the use of force/threat/deception, the age of the victim (minor or adult), and any aggravating factors. The penalties vary according to the type of sexual assault, with more severe acts like rape and assault on minors attracting harsher punishments under the law.

What are the punishments for sexual assault in UAE?

The punishments for sexual assault in the UAE vary based on the type or form of the offense, as per the categorization in the Penal Code. Here are the key punishments listed out:

  1. Indecent Assault (Article 354)
    • Imprisonment
    • Fine
  2. Rape (Article 355)
    • Imprisonment ranging from temporary to life sentence
    • Harsher penalties for aggravating factors like rape of a minor, rape within marriage, gang rape etc.
  3. Forced Sexual Acts like Sodomy, Oral Sex (Article 356)
    • Imprisonment
    • Potentially harsher penalties if committed against a minor
  4. Sexual Assault on Minors (Article 357)
    • Imprisonment terms
    • Potentially higher penalties based on specifics of the case
  5. Aggravated Sexual Assault
    • Enhanced penalties like longer imprisonment terms
    • Factors like use of weapons, causing permanent disabilities, etc. can aggravate the punishment

In general, the punishments include imprisonment terms ranging from temporary to life, as well as potential fines. The severities increase for more egregious offenses, crimes against minors, and cases involving aggravating circumstances as categorized under the respective Penal Code articles.

What are the rights of individuals accused of sexual harassment in the UAE?

Individuals accused of sexual harassment in the UAE have certain legal rights and protections under the law. These include:

The right to a fair trial and due process. Anyone charged with sexual harassment or assault is entitled to a fair and impartial trial, with the opportunity to defend themselves and present evidence. They have the right to legal representation and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The right against self-incrimination. Accused individuals cannot be compelled to testify against themselves or confess guilt. Any statements made under duress or coercion are inadmissible in court.

The right to appeal. If convicted, the accused has the right to appeal the verdict or sentence to higher courts, provided they follow the proper legal procedures and timelines. The right to privacy and confidentiality. While sexual crimes are treated seriously, the law also aims to protect the privacy and confidential details of the accused to avoid undue stigma or reputational damage, particularly in cases without sufficient evidence.

Additionally, the UAE judicial system generally provides access to translation/interpretation services for non-Arabic speakers and makes accommodations for individuals with disabilities or special circumstances during legal proceedings related to sexual harassment cases. It’s important to note that these rights must be balanced against the need to thoroughly investigate allegations, protect victims, and uphold public safety. However, the UAE legal framework aims to safeguard the fundamental rights of the accused alongside delivering justice.

How Can A Sexual Harassment Lawyer Help Your Case?

A skilled sexual harassment lawyer can provide invaluable assistance by:

  1. Leveraging in-depth knowledge of UAE harassment and assault laws to advise you on legal proceedings and protect your rights.
  2. Gathering evidence meticulously through interviews, expert testimonies and investigations to build a strong case.
  3. Representing you effectively through advocacy skills and courtroom experience when dealing with sensitive harassment issues.
  4. Liaising with authorities, employers or institutions to ensure proper procedures are followed and your interests are upheld.

With their specialized expertise, a competent lawyer can navigate the complexities of sexual harassment cases and significantly improve the chances of a favorable outcome.

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