The UAE is steeped in traditions and culture; with many of the same influencing the laws in the country since its inception.
Whilst most of 2020 was dominated by the virus and urgent measures to protect civilians; several pertinent amendments to the law were also made. The new laws clearly evidencing how the UAE is a progressive country, continuing to strive to diversify the legal infrastructure, support the economy, and strengthen its sociological ideas - bringing to the forefront of their consideration laws pertaining to women’s rights; marriage; business; and delicate subjects such as suicide.
Below are some of the major changes coming into force between 2021-2022.
1. Federal Decree Law no.15 of 2020, which regulates the buying, distribution, and consumption of alcohol has been amended and now ‘no penalties will be imposed for drinking, possessing, or trading alcoholic beverages in authorized places’. This must of course be regulated individually by each Emirate.
Provisions pertaining to the legal age for consuming alcohol remains at 21; failure to comply with the law will result in imprisonment and a fine between Dh100,000- Dh500,000. If you are found selling or buying to someone under 21 years, then either of these two penalties can be applied.
Wife’s obedience towards husband
2. Article 56 of the UAE Personal Status Law: Federal Decree Law No. 5 of 2020, which states that “a woman must be obedient towards the husband”, has been entirely repealed, allowing for a more broad-minded and liberal mindset towards women in the UAE.
3. Amendments to Article 344 of the Penal Code, pertaining to ‘honour crimes’ have also been made, in a progressive step towards equality and justice. The law previously stated that only ‘temporary imprisonment’ would be deemed suitable should a man or woman kill a member of their family, after being surprised to see them and believing that they had committed adultery. However, in accordance to the new amendment, this crime is now to be deemed punishable under the correct articles in the Penal code and tried as murder.
Harassment in public areas
4. Federal Law No. 15 of 2020 averred strict penalties for acts of harassment in public areas, including those which are restricted to ‘women only’. This is a positive change, promoting equality amongst the sexes and once again highlighting the UAE’s progressive thinking in 2021.
Any person who has molested a female, either by words or by action in a public area, shall either face imprisonment of a maximum of two years and a maximum fine of Dh100,000 or one of these penalties.
5. Federal Decree Law No. 6 of 2020 avers that both men and women must now be paid the same salary. Another positive and progressive law enabling equality for men and women.
6. New laws were also made regarding marriage, which averred that the court would look into the law of the country where the spouses were married, to make sure the marriage was valid and legal (Federal Decree Law no. 30 of 2020). This overrides the need for the law of each spouse’s country to be applied.
7. Laws were also amended regarding divorce and this shall now be governed by the laws of the country where the marriage took place.
8. Further amendments were made pertaining to non-married parties, allowing non-married couples to co-habit together in a sensible and appropriate manner. The amendments now aver that people cannot be punished for any consensual sexual behaviour (outside marriage). The law states that it is now only illegal if one party is underage, or if they are considered not ‘credible’ due to dementia, insanity, and so forth. This means that non married couples can live freely together, as long as both are practicing reasonable behaviour.
9. Great news for new fathers seeking paternity leave as amended laws aver “private sector employees will be granted paid parental leave for five working days to look after their baby, effective from the baby’s date of birth until the child is six months old.”
Provision of interpreters for non-Arabic speakers
10. Federal Decree Law No. 28 of 2020, with respect to changes to victim’s privacy laws, provides greater legal protection now. This allows for the accused individual; witness; or expert who does not speak Arabic, the right to access the report and provide safe guarding for those who may be vulnerable due to the language barrier and the restrictions it promotes.
11. Amendments have also been pertaining to suicide laws. Any individual who has attempted suicide will no longer be imprisoned but offered medical and mental health support instead.
Ownership of business for foreign nationals
12. Under new legislation, the UAE now allows 100% ownership of businesses for foreign nationals (previously 49%) as of 1 December 2020.
13. Towards the end of 2020; amendments pertaining to Commercial Law transactions (Federal Law No. 18/1993) vis-à-vis bounced or zero value cheques were made, with changes set to come in to force in 2022.
These amendments offer greater protection to people who accept cheques as a form of payment in their business; providing greater protection and remedies to seek recovery of lost sums. (read our blog on bounced cheques to find all the new changes).
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