One of the famous English philosophers, also known as the Father of Liberalism, John Locke, quoted “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom”. The core of any law should be to protect society from being immoral, but in a manner where people can also move in freedom. The President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has announced the introduction of the momentous reforms with regards to the vital laws governing the inheritance, wills, sexual harassment, honor killing, alcoholism, suicide, expats divorce and marriage, among others. The Government of UAE has initiated to implement these major progressive changes in its legislation, to enhance the standard of living and strongly embed the principles of tolerance into the society for all the residents and nationals living here and also be a preferred and attractive global destination for various commercial activities and foreign direct investments.
The amendments introduced are as follows:
Provisions governing the division of the assets of the deceased residing in the UAE was previously governed by the Sharia Laws, in the absence of existence of any will documented by the deceased.
As per the new changes, this provision has been replaced, whereby, the matters regarding the inheritance and wills, shall now be governed as per the laws of the country to which the deceased is a national or the country to which the deceased has been national at the time of death or as per the law of the country as mentioned in the will document, with an exception to the real estate properties owned in UAE, shall be governed by the laws here.
Federal Law Number 5 of 1985 on the Civil Transactions Code (the Civil Law) and Federal Law Number 28 of 2005 on the Personal Status (the Personal Law), governs matters regarding divorce, marriage, and other family-related matters. As per the new changes in the law governing the divorce of the ex-pats, the couple seeking for divorce shall now be governed by the laws of the country where the marriage took place, as opposed to the previous provisions which stated that law of the country to which each spouse was a national will be applied in case of divorce or marriage terms. It also replaced the provision where it provided for the law of the country to which the husband was national at the time of marriage would govern the matters pertaining to the separation agreements, settlements and financial terms of the marriage contract to the law of the country where the marriage took place.
The new change also allows the court to mediate on the matters of joint assets and joint accounts in the absence of any agreement between the parties. As per the new amendment in the Civil Law, one of the partners in a venture is now allowed to sell the entire venture, pursuant to a request to a judge, where they are not able to sell their share in the venture to another partner. The price shall be divided among the partners as per the value of each. The UAE has always been firm with its legislation governing the rights and protection of the woman living here. The new changes have been initiated by the UAE government in order to ensure the highest standard of safety for the women residing in this country, accordingly, it has introduced major changes to the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure laws.
As per the new amendments, the Honor Killing has been now criminalized, so as to amount to murder or a severe assault, as opposed to the previous laws which were lenient with regards to the same, where the punishment on assaulting the women on the pretext of protecting the family’s reputation by any male member of the family was lighter. The new amendments also have enhanced the safety of the women by extending the scope of law on sexual harassment of women, by imposing tougher punishments on men who are found to harass the women, which may also include street harassment and stalking. It also recognized, that even men could be subject to sexual harassment and stalking. The new changes in the indecency laws stipulate that if anyone is found to have committed an indecent act in public shall be subject to fine as opposed to previous laws that provided for imprisonment.
As per the new changes concerning the consexual sex, any sexual intercourse done with mutual consent shall not be punishable. However, it doesn’t allow consexual sex below the age of 14 years, as they are deemed to be incapable to entering into such agreement and it shall be punishable. As per the new changes, a person convicted of committing sexual intercourse by the use of force, with a minor or a person who is mentally challenged, shall be liable to be punished with execution.
There have been some vital changes to the laws governing suicide as well. As per the new changes, any attempt to suicide will no longer amount to a criminal offense, but rather shall be provided with required mental care and treatment. However, it doesn’t exempt any person found aiding the person attempting suicide from being punished.
As per the new changes, you can now extend your helping hand to people who are in danger without the fear of being held liable for their injury or death caused in the process of saving them, provided such acts are done with an good intention as opposed to before where people were held liable for any injury or death caused while trying to help or save people who were in danger.
As per the new amendments, the alcohol consumption has now been decriminalized. As per the new provisions, you are allowed to consume or sell the alcoholic beverages in the authorized places (privately or licensed public places) without an alcohol license. However, the person consuming the alcohol or intending to sell alcoholic beverages, must have attained the age of 21 years or else, they shall be subject to punishments.
One of the noteworthy changes which have been made to the provisions concerning the cohabitation of unmarried couples, whereby, the new law stipulates for the cohabitation of unmarried couples or unrelated flat mates to be legal as opposed to before where it was subject to severe punishments.
The UAE government has also introduced a new law in the judicial procedure, mandating the availability of translators for defendants and witnesses in court, who do not speak Arabic. The court has to ensure that legal translators are provided, that your defender must ask for. The new laws regarding privacy, as now restricted the public disclosure of evidence of matters related to indecent acts and directed the protection of such evidence. The personal information regarding the victim must not be revealed by the judicial arresting officers to any other person except for those permitted by law to know such information. Thus, the UAE government has initiated to implement all of the above changes so as to establish itself as a favorite global destination for people of different nationalities and cultures. It intends to stand out among other nations for its strong belief in engraving the principles of tolerance into the society by implementing modern and broad legislations governing the lives of expatriates.